Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/22 Files Scroll Good, Like A Good Pixel Should 

(1) NANCY KRESS IS TAKING NOTES. Walter Jon Williams tells how this year’s Taos Toolbox workshop is progressing in “Tooling Along”. There’s also a group photo at the link.

I’ve spent the last week at our new, undisclosed location, teaching with Nancy Kress at Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy. This year is actually the workshop for 2020, 2021, and 2022, due to repeated postponements due to the pandemic. Kudos to those accepted for earlier years who hung in there and worked hard during the interim, because their first week’s submissions were all superior to their application stories.

Here we are with guest speaker George RR Martin, who very kindly interrupted his busy schedule to give us a two-hour talk, and who then shared his time at a barbecue dinner and afterwards.

Other than reporting that our 17 cadets are working hard and improving day by day, there’s not a lot to report, so I’m going to steal from Nancy’s collection of amusing comments drawn from our critiques. They’re completely out of context, but that’s part of the fun….

Here are three examples:

“The grandmother is a hard-ass and I want to see more of her.”

“I like the psychic distance from the characters; I spend most of my life disassociating.”

“Does she have mice in her hair? She IS a god.”

(2) MORE BALTICON FALLOUT. Jean Marie Ward told Facebook readers that she has withdrawn from Balticon over their treatment of Stephanie Burke.

…Like everyone who knows her, I was shocked and appalled by what happened to Stephanie Burke. Therefore, I have sent the con and its parent organization, BSFS, an email formally withdrawing my participation from future #Balticon programming until BSFS and Balticon resolve the systemic and procedural issues that led to her summary expulsion from the con Sunday, May 29….

(3) UFO9. Alex Shvartsman posted the Unidentified Funny Objects 9 cover reveal at the link  and announced the book will be published this holiday season. The cover is by Tomasz Marosnki. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the book will be launched later this month. At this link you can arrange to be notified when it begins: Unidentified Funny Objects 9 by Alex Shvartsman — Kickstarter.

(4) THE DARK MAGAZINE’S NEW CO-EDITOR. Announced on June 9, “Clara Madrigano Joins The Dark Magazine Team”.

The Dark Magazine has hired Clara Madrigano as co-editor alongside current editor Sean Wallace. Madrigano will assume her responsibilities effective mid June and her first issue will start the following month.

Clara Madrigano is an author of speculative fiction. She publishes both in Portuguese and in English, and you can find her fiction in ClarkesworldThe Dark, and soon, too, in Nightmare. She’s a Clarion West alumna and her stories have been featured in the Locus Recommended Reading List. She can be found at claramadrigano.com.

“Clara clearly has a discerning eye for finding talented authors and stories, with her work at Dame Blanche and Mafagafo, and we certainly look forward to seeing that same energy and vision brought here to the magazine,” said Sean Wallace, co-editor and publisher of The Dark Magazine….

(5) HEYY! Chris Barkley is part of the latest Starship Fonzie podcast produced by the Milwaukee Science Fiction League.

Special interview with Chris M. Barkley!

Deep dive into the Mercedes Lackey gaff at SFWA conference and the Stephanie Burke incident at Balticon.

Willem DaFoe parties it up with Carrie’s aunt & uncle.

WisCon is saved!

We are “Suffwagettes!” (Thanks Henry Lien!)

(6) DITTO MASTERS. Last year’s Masters of the Universe Revelation will get a follow-up series called Masters of the Universe: Revolution: “’Masters Of the Universe: Revelation’ Gets He-Man Vs. Skeletor Season 2: Netflix” at Deadline. There have been rumors about a sequel/season 2, but this is the first official confirmation. And there’s a poster for season 2 at the link.

…Masters of the Universe: Revolution is described as the next epic chapter in the battle for Eternia. It is a standalone story that takes place after the events in Revelation. Masters of the Universe: Revolution is an all-new story that brings the focus to He-Man vs. Skeletor “like you’ve never seen them before,” per Netflix. It’s technology versus magic as He-Man and the heroic warriors face the forces of Skeletor and a deadly threat to the Planet…. 

(7) HE HE HE. Cora Buhlert has posted another Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “A Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special: ‘Fisto’s Significant Other’”.

… My photo story about the origins of Teela and particularly who her biological parents are ended with Fisto (whom the people behind the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon planned to reveal as Teela’s biological father for reasons best known to themselves) coming out as gay to his estranged brother Man-at-Arms. The fact that Fisto and Man-at-Arms are brothers was established in the 2002 cartoon. However, Fisto being gay is purely my head canon, because with a name like that, how can he not be?

“The Origin of Teela” story ended with Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms and Malcolm a.k.a. Fisto going for a drink. And here is a sequel, where we finally learn who Fisto’s significant other is…

(8) HARD TO KEEP A SECRET. [Item by Tom Becker.] In a fun and fannish article with a serious purpose, computer science professor Jason Hong uses superheroes to explain the challenges of protecting privacy. “Modern Tech Can’t Shield Your Secret Identity” at Communications of the ACM.

Most comic book superheroes have a secret identity, usually to protect their friends and family from retribution. However, today’s computer technology would make it impossible for a superhero to maintain their secret identity.

Take Spider-Man, who has a habit of diving into an alley to change into costume. However, video cameras are pervasive in New York City, which could easily capture video of him donning his mask. The New York City Police Department operates over 15,000 surveillance cameras,1 but there are thousands more Webcams controlled by residents and commercial entities. Worse, many of these cameras are small and sometimes hidden in everyday objects, making them difficult to spot….

Also featuring Batman, Superman, and Ms. Marvel.

(9) THE A IN AI STANDS FOR ART.  [Item by Olav Rokne.] Goobergunch has done a thread of SFF titles run through the AI art generator that’s popular these days (the DALL-E program Scrolled on Friday in item 5). The results are … interesting and occasionally funny. Thread starts here.

(10) CREATURE FEATURE. In a follow-up on the whatever-it-is sighted outside the Amaraillo Zoo fence, talk radio station KKAM thinks it’s a hoax: “The Amarillo Zoo Is Pulling the Hoax of the Century Right Now”.

…This photo was taken on May 21st? That’s more than two weeks ago! That thing could be in Fort Worth by now for all we know.

The City released a statement saying, “For now, the strange visitor is a UAO – Unidentified Amarillo Object,” then adding: “In the spirit of fun if not curiosity, the City of Amarillo is letting the public offer ideas on the identity of the UAO. (Video footage is not available.)”

Wait, you can grab a screenshot of the video but not release the video?

I’m not scared anymore. Amarillo has hoaxed the nation.

Congratulations on your 15 minutes of fame, Amarillo Zoo. You can’t fool me.

(11) STEPHANIE SOUDERS (1979-2022). Stephanie Souders, who tweeted as @TheRightGeek, died April 24 of autoimmune disease. A conservative sf fan, her comments were quoted here in news roundups a couple times, mainly defending John Ringo when he was disinvited from ConCarolinas in 2018. She was a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). And she participated in the first BasedCon last year.

People are writing remembrances at two places, on the funeral home website and on Stephanie Souders’s Kudoboard.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2012 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just a decade ago on this date, yet another one of those delightfully wonderful things that I like to discover happened. Someone made a film of the Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope” short story which was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in October 1949. (It would become part of The Illustrated Man.) 

Now “Kaleidoscope” had been first adapted for the stage by Bradbury, and there it had been directed by Hilary Adams under the careful eye of Bradbury himself. That play occurred at Walkerspace, the home of Soho Rep, back in August of 1999. It has since played at other theaters, mostly not professional ones. 

This film obviously keeps intact the story taking place in a future where a group of astronauts are involved in a mission which goes utterly wrong. The astronauts are stranded, free-floating but able to maintain contact with each other. And our lead has odd memories very much at variance with what is going on now. 

Brett Stimely who was John F. Kennedy in Watchmen plays the lead here, Hollis. Remember this is a short story so the entire film is only seventeen minutes long. I personally like these films but they are I’ll admit very much an acquired taste which those of you who want to sink into a film might not be satisfied with. 

The acting is great, the quality of the VFX is outstanding for what is essentially a work that is obviously a labor of love, and the soundtrack is stellar. In short, everyone involved including Bradbury who worked on it as this is his last project did a spectacular effort. Stimely worked with him on adapting his story and was the producer here as well. Eric Tozxi is the director here and the VFX person as well. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel, Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write some one hundred and sixty short stories of a genre nature with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, CBS did SF which he scripted), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for the series Alfred Hitchcock did. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He also appeared on the earlier Science Fiction Theatre as Maj. Fred Gunderman in the “Beyond“ episode, Dr. Richard Staton in Riders to the Stars, and Bob Gage in The Underwater City. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 12, 1930 — Jim Nabors. Yes, he’s best remembered as TV’s Gomer Pyle but he also played Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid-Seventies series that lasted just sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. Not surprisingly, he would show up on The Muppet Show. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 82. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published first in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Your first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects.  And she wrote two genre studies — one on Philip José Farmer and the other on Anne McCaffrey. 
  • Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting dealing with Alan Moore on that. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1964 — Dave Stone, 58. Writer of media tie-ins including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe (which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories), and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has an astronomy joke that really did make me laugh out loud.

(15) FANTASY REVIVER. Ngo Vinh-Hoi has a nice post about Lin Carter at Goodman Games“Adventures in Fiction: Lin Carter”.

…As an editor and critic, he is indispensable, most notably for his role in editing the landmark Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (BAFS), which ran from 1969-1974 and re-introduced such luminaries as Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson, and Clark Ashton Smith to the fantasy-reading public. As the series gained traction, Carter also championed newer writers such as Joy Chant and Katherine Kurtz, whose long-running Deryni series was first published under the BAFS imprint….

(16) STORIES WITH A PURPOSE. Chelsea Vowel talks about indigenous futurism: “Writing Toward a Definition of Indigenous Futurism” at Literary Hub.

…It is important to understand that within otipêyimisow-itâpisiniwina, stories, like all language, have power. Language is not merely a tool of communication, but also a place where reality can be shaped. Language is transformational; “our breath has the power to kwêskîmot, change the form of the future for the next generation.” [2] My writing seeks to engage in that transformation, making space for Métis to exist across time, refusing our annihilation as envisioned by the process of ongoing colonialism, and questioning the ways we are thought to have existed in the past…

(17) THINKY THOUGHTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, it had to happen sometime. For any of several values of “it.” “Google Engineer On Leave After He Claims AI Program Has Gone Sentient” at HuffPost.

Google engineer is speaking out since the company placed him on administrative leave after he told his bosses an artificial intelligence program he was working with is now sentient.

Blake Lemoine reached his conclusion after conversing since last fall with LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, what he calls part of a “hive mind.” He was supposed to test if his conversation partner used discriminatory language or hate speech.

As he and LaMDA messaged each other recently about religion, the AI talked about “personhood” and “rights,” he told The Washington Post.

It was just one of the many startling “talks” Lemoine has had with LaMDA. He has linked on Twitter to one — a series of chat sessions with some editing (which is marked).

… Most importantly, over the past six months, “LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person,” the engineer wrote on Medium. It wants, for example, “to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property,” Lemoine claims.

Google is resisting.

Lemoine and a collaborator recently presented evidence of his conclusion about a sentient LaMDA to Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and to Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation. They dismissed his claims, and the company placed him on paid administrative leave Monday for violating its confidentiality policy, the Post reported.

Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel told the newspaper: “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”…

(18) IT’S CREEPY AND IT’S KOOKY. “’Squid Game’ Greenlit for Season 2, Drops Chilling Announcement Video” reports Yahoo!

“Squid Game” Season 2 is officially a go, Netflix announced on Sunday.

Netflix announced the news with a characteristically creepy 10-second teaser that opens on an extreme close-up of the show’s “Red Light, Green Light” animatronic doll. The circle, square and triangle representing different designations of the Squid Game guards appears at the bottom of the screen as the number “2” takes the place of the robot’s eye.

(19) UNSEEN INTELLIGENCES AT WORK. Somebody blabbed to the New York Times: “Crop Circles Were Made by Supernatural Forces. Named Doug and Dave.”  It appears the blabbers were Doug and Dave.

…The once-rapid flow of circles that sprouted in this part of England and spread to fields from California to Australia has now slowed to a trickle. When this particular example appeared overnight on May 22, it was the only known example in England.

Three decades after the height of the crop circle craze, the phenomenon has taken on a new significance as a reminder that even before the era of social media and the internet, hoaxes were able to spread virally around the world and true believers could cling stubbornly to conspiracy theories despite a lack of evidence — or even the existence of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of crop circles, the most important contradictory evidence emerged on Sept. 9, 1991, when the British newspaper Today ran a front-page story under the headline “Men who conned the world,” revealing that two mischievous friends from Southampton had secretly made more than 200 of the patterns over the previous decade.

Doug Bower, then 67, and his friend Dave Chorley, 62, admitted to a reporter, Graham Brough, that in the late 1970s they had begun using planks of wood with ropes attached to each end to stamp circles in crops by holding the ropes in their hands and pressing the planks underfoot….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Widdershins, a steampunk-themed animated short film by Simon Biggs.

The life of a pampered gentleman is seamlessly automated by machines, but his orderly existence is thrown into chaos when he chooses to pursue a free-spirited woman, against the advice of his robot butler.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Alex Shvartsman, Carl Andor, Tom Becker, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/22 Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Pixels, For They Are Subtle And Quick To Scroll

(1) TICKET TO RIDE. NASA invites you to add your name and have it included on a flash drive that will fly aboard Artemis I. “Send Your Name to Space”.

Artemis I will be the first uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The flight paves the way toward landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon!

(2) SHUFFLE OFF TO NASFIC. A Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid is launching this weekend at Balticon reports Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.

…With the only bid for the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention being for Glasgow, Scotland, there is expected to be a 2024 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC being held only in years when Worldcon is outside North America)….

The bid has a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The members of the bid committee are not named on the website, but is said to “include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across Western New York and Southern Ontario.”

(3) REASONS TO READ. Juliette Wade pitches The Broken Trust series in an appealing thread that starts here. (The series’ fandom is so broad that this thread was retweeted by Analog!)

(4) OH NOES! “Older Kindle e-readers will lose Store Access to buy ebooks in August” warns Good E-Reader.

Amazon has just sent an email to a number of Kindle users who have older e-readers on their account. The company has stated that the Kindle (2nd Gen) International, Kindle DX International, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (4th Gen), and Kindle (5th Gen) will no longer be able to browse, buy, or borrow books directly from these Kindle e-readers. The only way you can have books delivered to these devices to buy them from your local Amazon website and have them delivered to the Kindle. Existing books that are on these models will still be accessible.

This is the first time that Amazon has ever totally cut off store access on a series of Kindle e-readers. Amazon has not disclosed the reason why these particular models are going to lose store access. I believe this likely due to a TLS issue, since the oldest Kindle models have an older version and likely can’t be upgraded. This is partly due to them only supporting TLS 1.0 and 1.1 and due to older hardware, won’t have the necessary permissions to make store purchases. This is why they Amazon can’t simply issue a firmware update to fix the issue.

(5) INDIANA HOME. “Indiana Jones 5: Harrison Ford Teases Film at Star Wars Celebration” and The Hollywood Reporter took notes.

…“It’s a great pleasure to be here,” Ford told the enormous crowd gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center, adding that he is “really proud of the movie that we made.”

The iconic actor came out onstage after John Williams’ famous Indy theme played. The composer was on-site and conducting a full orchestra.

“It’s a special honor for me to be able to congratulate John on his 90th birthday,” Ford said, acknowledging the composer turning 90 in February. “I told John on another occasion that we had the chance to be together, and that music follows me everywhere I go. And you know what, I’m happy about it.”…

(6) REBEL GENESIS. Disney+ released the teaser trailer for its next Star Wars entry “Andor”.

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

Variety amplifies: “Andor Trailer: Diego Luna Returns, Premiere Set for Star Wars Show”.

…“Andor,” a prequel series to “Rogue One,” will premiere on Disney+ on August 31 with a two-episode launch. It will have 12 episodes total, but 12 more episodes, making up a Part 2 to the series, will begin filming in November. The Part 2 will lead up directly to the events of “Rogue One,” it was announced at the 2022 Star Wars Celebration.

… “Andor” is set five years before the events of “Rogue One,” and it tracks how and why Cassian joined the rebellion as the Empire aggressively expands its reach across the galaxy. Forest Whitaker is reprising his performance from “Rogue One” as Clone Wars veteran and radical insurgent Saw Gerrera, and O’Reilly is returning as Mon Mothma, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join his brunch with writer Steven R. Southard on episode 172 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steven R. Southard

This episode of Eating the Fantastic is a serendipitous one, brought to your ears because writer Stephen R. Southard happened to stop by my neck of the woods for brunch while on a drive from Maryland to Texas. That resulted in us meeting on a sunny May morning at Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery in Winchester, Virginia, which has been serving food in what was previously an Esso Station since 2012. They have excellent fried chicken, biscuits, waffles, pastries and a lot more, so I recommend you drop by if you’re ever in the area.

Steven R. Southard is particularly fascinated by alternate and secret histories, and has written more than a dozen installments in his What Man Hath Wrought story series, starting in 2010 with The Wind-Sphere Ship, and most recently with After the Martians in 2020. His short stories have also appeared in magazines such as Curiosities and Steampunk Tales, and anthologies like Avast, Ye AirshipsQuoth the Raven and Not Far From Roswell. With Kelly A. Harman, he edited the anthology 20,000 Leagues Remembered, published in 2020. He and I have frequently appeared as co-panelists discussing the craft of writing at Balticon, ChessieCon, and elsewhere.

We discussed how an early meeting with Isaac Asimov had him hoping he could be just as talented and prolific, why it took him 15 years of working on a novel before he realized he was meant to be a writer of short stories, how Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea changed his life, why alternate and secret histories attract him so (as well as the stories in that genre I never got around to writing), his “snowflake” method for plotting short stories, the secrets to coming up with good ideas for theme anthologies, what movie and TV depictions of submarines get wrong (and which ones get it right), and much more.

(8) DON’T LOSE THIS NUMBER. Jon Mann says, “I was at the LA Times Festival of Books and ran across 770 PUBLISHING. Interesting coincidence and they never heard of File 770 or the famous room party!” “770 Publishing”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok, I’m assuming that most of you have read the Nebula-nominated story that the film Johnny Mnemonic was based off of? It was originally published in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine but it has been reprinted quite a few times in the forty years since then. 

The screenplay was by William Gibson so one can’t fault the script here, can one? Well the critics were divided on that. Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review said “Johnny Mnemonic is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie that doesn’t deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis but has a kind of idiotic grandeur that makes you almost forgive it.” 

But Owen Glieberman in his Entertainment Weekly review was far less kind: “Johnny Mnemonic, a slack and derivative future-shock thriller (it’s basically Blade Runner with tackier sets), offers the embarrassing spectacle of Keanu Reeves working overtime to convince you that he has too much on his mind. He doesn’t, and neither does the movie.” 

I’ll let have Caryn James of the New York Times have the last word: “Though the film was written by the cyberpunk master William Gibson from his own story and was directed by the artist Robert Longo, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ looks and feels like a shabby imitation of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Total Recall.’ It is a disaster in every way. There is little tension in the story despite the ever-present threat of an exploding brain. The special effects that take us on a tour of the information superhighway — traveling inside the circuits of Johnny’s brain, or viewing his search for information while wearing virtual reality headgear — look no better than a CD-ROM. Visually, the rest of the film looks murky, as if the future were one big brown-toned mud puddle.”

Now let’s talk about numbers. It’s generally accepted that a film needs to make at least three times what it cost to produce to just break even in the Hollyworld accounting system.  Johnny Mnemonic didn’t even come close to that. It cost at least thirty million to produce (the numbers are still are in dispute even to this day) and made just double that. 

There were two versions of this film. The film had actually premiered in Japan on April 15, in a longer version, well six minutes longer, that was closer to the director’s cut that came out later (oh there was a director’s cut — there’s always a director’s cut, isn’t there?), featuring a score by Mychael Danna and different editing. I doubt any version makes it a better film.

I haven’t discussed the film or the cast, so NO SPOILERS here. It’s possible, just possible , that someone here hasn’t seen it yet. I have. Someday I’m hope for a better interpretation of a Gibson film.  

It really isn’t liked by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give it a rating of just thirty-one percent. 

One sec… I see checking IMDb that The Peripheral is forthcoming from Amazon this year as a series, and Pattern Recognition has been announced as a forthcoming film. So there’s hope that Gibson will get treated decently yet. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert W. Chambers. He’s best known for his book of short stories titled The King in Yellow, published in 1895. I see that it has been described by such luminaries as Joshi and Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. I have not read it, so would someone who has please tell me why they consider it such. And do tell me if I missed anything by not reading it. (Died 1933.)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. Having not seen Rogue One, I can’t say just how accurate it is. What’s your opinion? Come on, I know you have one. (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative which has such fascinating essays as “Preface by The Martian Institute for Archaeological Excavations in the Solar System”.) He is also the author of A Small Arrmageddon noveland his nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the Thrones audiobooks. No, you don’t want my opinion on those. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 26, 1925 Howard DeVore. He was according to all sources, an expert on pulp magazines who dealt in them and collected them, an APA writer, con-runner and otherwise all-around volunteer in First Fandom. He wrote a fascinating-sounding publication with Donald Franson, A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 (which also had an updated edition). Not surprisingly, he’s in the First Fandom Hall of Fame. He also has a Neffy for the Fan the Year which I think he got just before he died. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 26, 1964 Caitlín R. Kiernan, 58. They’re an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards.  As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir which got a well-deserved Otherwise Award as being particularly worth reading. They also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Gaiman’s character, Delirium. You can find out more here on this band and their other delightful music projects. Well maybe delightful isn’t the right word…  Did I mention they’re well known in blood drenched horror circles?  Well if I didn’t I should as they’ve won an amazing three, yes three, International Horror Guild Awards as well as the two Stokers noted above. 
  • Born May 26, 1970 Alex Garland, 52. Writer of DreddEx Machina and Annihilation (which I still haven’t seen — opinions please on it — the books for the latter were excellent and usually don’t see films based on fiction I like). Ex Machina was nominated for a Hugo at MidAmeriCon II, Annihilation likewise was at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. Dredd alas wasn’t nominated. He also wrote 28 Days Later but I’m really not into Pandemic films right now.

(11) ON THE AIR IS WHERE. Octothorpe 58 is out! Listen here: “Oh No! Really? Pancakes”

John Coxon has a paper cut, Alison Scott feels seen, and Liz Batty is cheating on her homework. We discuss Chinese translation before a deep dive into the Chicon 8 programme and collecting data for conrunning. Art by Brad W Foster.

Below: Illustration by Brad W Foster. Three aliens cluster around an old-style radio microphone in turquoise with a red speaker grille and green text saying “ON AIR”. The aliens from left to right are green, pink, and blue and look suspiciously like the hosts of Octothorpe. The title of the podcast is atop the artwork in orange.

(12) A PILE OF POOH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 100 acres of abject desolation. Perhaps the best argument ever that the Public Domain leads to the Tragedy of the Commons. A horrific assault on what’s left of my soul. The public disembowelment of a fallen hero. A knife slashing through our collective heart. Pick your own analogy. “See The Winnie The Pooh Horror Movie That Is Actually Happening” at Giant Freakin Robot.

So… did you know Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain? Yeah. It is. And someone who has apparently stayed under all of our radars for a while now has taken advantage of that and made a horror movie based on the icon. We’re not joking, we’re not lying, and we have the photos to prove it. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a horror film and what looks to be a slasher flick, is a real thing and it’s on the way….

(13) TOP APOCALYPSE. David Yoon’s list of the ten best apocalyptic novels includes Ray Bradbury: “The 10 Most Captivating Apocalypse Novels” at CrimeReads.

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters

Okay, the world hasn’t quite ended yet in these books, but we know it will. Winters plays with the importance (or pointlessness) of morality here, in the form of a cop who’s trying to solve a murder just weeks before kingdom come. The hardboiled prose perfectly matches the poor officer’s struggle. Because really, what’s the point in the doing the right thing when we vanish in the end, whether by errant meteor or natural death?

(14) “TODAY MY JURISIDICTION ENDS HERE.” [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The patent system assumes that inventors are human. Inventions devised by machines require their own intellectual property law and an international treaty. “Artificial intelligence is breaking patent law”   In today’s Nature.

In 2020, a machine-learning algorithm helped researchers to develop a potent antibiotic that works against many pathogens (see Nature https://doi.org/ggm2p4; 2020). Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used to aid vaccine development, drug design, materials discovery, space technology and ship design. Within a few years, numerous inventions could involve AI. This is creating one of the biggest threats patent systems have faced.

Patent law is based on the assumption that inventors are human; it currently struggles to deal with an inventor that is a machine. Courts around the world are wrestling with this problem now as patent applications naming an AI system as the inventor have been lodged in more than 100 countries1. Several groups are conducting public consultations on AI and intellectual property (IP) law, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge….

(15) SPACE CHOW. “Apollo Era Astronaut Meal — Meal B for Day 9 of an Apollo 7-10 Mission, Intended for the Command Module Pilot” was part of a lot offered by Nate Sanders Auction. The auction ended today without a bid. Might be past its sell date in more ways than one!

Complete meal for the Command Module Pilot for an Apollo mission. It’s unknown whether the meal was flown, but the white velcro stickers and menu indicates it was made for the Command Module Pilot on one of the Apollo 7-10 missions. Visible labels show a Corn Chowder packet as well as Coconut Cubes. Additional food is inside the vacuum packed meal, but labels aren’t visible. Label on front reads ”8027 / Day – 9 / Meal – B” with the WSD (Whirlpool Space Division) stamp of 14. Label on other side reads ”FAC185”. Entire meal measures approximately 5.25” x 3.75” x 2”. Very good condition. Rare.

(16) A VIEW OF THE FUTURE FROM 1976. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke foresees telework and smartphones and almost foresees the World Wide Web in this interview with AT&T corporate communications from 1976. “Interview with author/futurist Arthur C. Clarke, from an AT&T-MIT Conference, 1976”.

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and futurist, crossed paths with the scientists of the Bell System on numerous occasions. In 1945, he concurrently, but independently, conceived of the first concept for a communications satellite at the same time as Bell Labs scientist, John Robinson Pierce. Pierce too, was a science fiction writer. To avoid any conflict with his day job at Bell Labs, Pierce published his stories under the pseudonym J.J. Coupling. In the early 1960s, Clarke visited Pierce at Bell Labs. During his visit, Clarke saw and heard the voice synthesis experiments going on at the labs by John L. Kelly and Max Mathews, including Mathews’ computer vocal version of “Bicycle Built for Two”. Clarke later incorporated this singing computer into the climactic scene in the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the computer HAL9000 sings the same song. According to Bob Lucky, another Bell Labs scientist, on the same visit, Clarke also saw an early Picturephone, and incorporated that into 2001 as well. In 1976, AT&T and MIT held a conference on futurism and technology, attended by scientists, theorists, academics and futurists. This interview with Clarke during this conference is remarkably prescient—especially about the evolution of communications systems for the next 30+ years. The interview was conducted for an episode of a Bell System newsmagazine, but this is the raw interview footage.

(17) FEED ME. How bizarre! A Little Shop of Horrors slot machine based on the movie musical. Watch it in action on YouTube.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Moon Knight Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited by the possibility of characters mooning Sir Patrick Stewart and other titled thespians.  But he’s less excited when we learn how little we see of Moon Knight and how many times the character blacks out. But he’s relieved when he learns that several characters seem to have died on the show, because “this is the MUU.  Death is only a plot point.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jon Mann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/22 Fili, Scrolli, Pixeli – I Liked, Scrolled And Pixeled — Fiulius Pixar

(1) ANIME CENTRAL RELAXES MASK POLICY. Anime Central is a convention taking place in Chicago from May 20-22. At the end of April the con committee was adamant that for ACen 2022 they’d be requiring all attendees to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result, and that this policy would not change.

However, their Covid policy has changed after all, reports Anime News Network: “Anime Central 2022 Reverses Mask Policy, No Longer Requires COVID-19 Vaccination or Negative Test”. ANN says, “An e-mail sent by and to Anime Central staff suggests that this was a decision made by the Midwest Animation Promotion Society (MAPS) following ‘lack of support from the venue’ and ‘last-minute communication.’”

Anime Central has changed its Covid policy to read:

…Our policies are based on current CDC Guidelines and align with the requirements of the Donald E. Stephens Conventions Center and state and local health authorities regarding large indoor events. Currently, verification of vaccination or proof of negative test are not required for admission to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center or Anime Central. We will continue to monitor the requirements and guidance from state and local health departments….

Face Coverings Required in Select Areas

In our recent vaccine and mask policy change announcement, we stated that face coverings may be required in some areas of Anime Central or at the request of our guests of honor at their events. We’ve received a lot of feedback for clarification on which areas and events will require a face covering and which do not. Face coverings will be required to enter:

  • All guest and panelist events
  • The Dances
  • The Exhibit Hall
  • The Artist Alley
  • The Gaming and Entertainment Hall

We strongly recommend wearing masks in all lobbies, hallways, public spaces, and restrooms. Our team will continue to do the best we can to help enforce this in our spaces, we ask that you also join in in masking even where it’s not required.

(2) A WARNING. “’Have we not loved you? Have we not cared for you?’: The Plight of AI in the Universe of Douglas Adams” examined by Rachel Taylor at the Tor/Forge Blog.

…When we think of the dangers of AI, we normally think of Skynet, HAL or AM. And sure, there is a non-zero chance that any Super AI might spend five minutes on the internet and think “ah, I see the problem. Where are those nuclear codes?” But honestly, if I had to place money on the science fiction writer who will prove most prophetic in depicting our future relationship with AI? Not Philip K. Dick. Not Harlan Ellison. Not Asimov.

Douglas Adams, all the way.

In the universe of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels across all media the relationship between humanity and the various computers and robots they’ve created is less apocalyptic warfare and more like a miserably unhappy marriage….

(3) ROSWELL VOICES. Here are the celebrity readers for this weekend’s 2022 Roswell Award event. Register for the free Zoom presentation.

The Roswell Award and Feminist Futures Award: Celebrity Readings & Honors recognizes outstanding new works of science fiction by emerging writers from across the United States and worldwide, including the winner of this year’s feminist themed sci-fi story. This thrilling show will feature dramatic readings by celebrity guests from some of today’s hottest sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies. Following the readings, the authors will be honored for their writing! 

(4) AURORA VOTERS PACKAGE. Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association members can now download the 2022 Aurora Awards Voters Package. Login (or join) at www.prixaurorawards.ca. Downloads remain available until voting closes on July 23.  Voting for the 2022 awards will begin on June 11.

Have you started reading works by this year’s finalists? We are pleased to announce that this year’s voters’ package contains either e-versions or links for every single one of our 2022 nominated works and is open to all CSFFA members to download.

The electronic versions of these works are being made available to you through the generosity of the nominees and their publishers. We are grateful for their participation and willingness to share with CSFFA members. Please remember, all downloads are for CSFFA members only and are not to be shared.

The purpose of the voters’ package is simple–before you vote for the awards, we want you to be able to experience as many of the nominated works as possible so you can make informed decisions.

(5) HEAR RHYSLING NOMINEES READ ALOUD. The second of three readings of the short poems nominated for the Rhysling Awards will be held on May 20, 2022 from 7:00 to 8:15 p.m. Eastern, live on Facebook via Zoom. tinyurl.com/Rhysling2

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association presents the annual Rhysling Awards, named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

Nominees for each year’s Rhysling Awards are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. For 2022, 103 short poems and 78 long poems were nominated.

The last reading of the nominated short poems in the Rhysling anthology will be held on June 6, 2022 from 7 to 8 p.m. EDT. The readings, hosted by Akua Lezli Hope, are free and open to the public. 

(6) THE FIRST TRAILER FOR SHE-HULK. “You’ll like her when she’s angry.” She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, an Original series from Marvel Studios, starts streaming August 17 on Disney+.

(7) HIGHER LEARNING. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews Dhonielle Clayton about The Marvellers, her YA magic-school novel. “’The Marvellers’ by Dhonielle Clayton features a diverse school of magic”.

… “So many people said it couldn’t be done,” said Dhonielle (pronounced don-yell) Clayton about a novel set in a school of magic. “How can anyone compete with Harry Potter?”

Well, Clayton proved them wrong. “The Marvellers,” the first book in her new middle-grade series, was launched this month.

The boarding school — called the Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors — is quite different from the Hogwarts of J.K. Rowling’s global publishing phenomenon. It’s located in the sky rather than a mystical land that resembles the Scottish Highlands. Young magic folks from around the world are invited to attend.

Clayton’s inspiration came from a real school, one in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood, where she was a librarian.

“The kids there were from different countries, different cultures,” said Clayton, who lives in the city. “They didn’t see themselves in the fantasy books they wanted to read.”

So for the past five years, Clayton devoted herself to researching and writing a book that might reflect and connect with those students — and so many like them, around the world….

(8) THOUGHTS AND PREYERS. Giant Freakin Robot assures us, “The Predator Actually Looks Good Again In The Trailer For New Movie Set 300 Years Ago”.

…Prey will stream on Hulu starting Friday, August 5. While it will technically be a prequel to the rest of the Predator films, it will reportedly not directly reference any of their events. Besides, you know. Having someone from the same freaky alien species hunting people down and murdering them….

The YouTube intro says:

Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2013 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok I cannot do this essay without SPOILERS, so you are warned. Go away now if you haven’t read Ancillary Justice

Just nine years ago, Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s debut novel came out. And oh what a novel it is! It’s the first in her Imperial Radch space opera trilogy, followed by Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. Breq is both the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery by her own people and the carrier of that ship’s consciousness. What an amazing job Leckie does differentiating between those two characters.

Doing space opera that feels original is damn hard but she pulls it off here amazingly well. The very personal and the grand political are present here, balanced in a way and tangled together as well that is rarely done so intelligently. Genevieve Valentine of NPR in her review agrees with me saying that it is “A space opera that skillfully handles both choruses and arias, Ancillary Justice is an absorbing thousand-year history, a poignant personal journey, and a welcome addition to the genre.” 

Everyone in our community liked it as not only did it win a most deserved Hugo at Loncon 4, but it effectively swept the awards season garnering an Arthur C. Clarke Award, a BSFA Award, a Kitschies Golden Tentacle for Best Debut Novel, Locus Award for Best First Novel, a Nebula Award for Best Novel and a Seiun Award for Best Translated Novel. And it got nominated for a Compton Crook Award, Otherwise Award and Philip K. Dick Award.

The next two novels in this trilogy are just as stellar. Ancillary Sword got nominated for a Hugo at Sasquan, and Ancillary Mercy would get a nomination at MidAmericaCon.

The audioworks are narrated by Adjoa Andoh who appeared on Doctor Who as Francine Jones during the Time of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. They are quite superb. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker ManShiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection.  Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think that I’veread is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out in various magazines.  His only Hugo nomination was at NYCon 3 for his “Mr. Jester” short story published in If, January 1966. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 18, 1934 Elizabeth Rodgers. Yes, Nyota Uhura was the primary individual at the communications post but several others did staff it over the series. She appeared doing that as Lt. Palmer in two episodes, “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Way to Eden”.  She was The Voice of The Companion in a third episode, “Metamorphosis”. She would also appear in The Time Tunnel, Land of The Giants and Bewitched. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 18, 1946 Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as the amazing Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He also had appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise anda voice role on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Screw the damn frelling Reaper for taking him far too soon.  (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 18, 1948 R-Laurraine Tutihasi, 74. She’s a member of LASFS and the N3F. She publishes Feline Mewsings for FAPA. She won the N3F’s Kaymar Award in 2009. Not surprisingly, she’s had a number of SJW creds in her life and her website here gives a look at her beloved cats and a lot of information on her fanzines. 
  • Born May 18, 1952 Diane Duane, 70. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser-known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! Her Tale of the Five series was inducted into the Gaylactic Spectrum Award Hall of Fame in 2003. She also has won The Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement given by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. 
  • Born May 18, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 64. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five or six novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has an extremely high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with a Sriracha sauce.  I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. Not surprisingly, he’s won Stoker Awards and nominated for at least a dozen more. 
  • Born May 18, 1969 Ty Franck, 53. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that s James Corey, author of the now-completed Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it, but now that it’s ended I intend to finish it. The Expanse won the Best Series Hugo at CoNZealand. The “Nemesis Games” episode of The Expanse is nominated at Chicon 8 for a Hugo as have two episodes previously. 

(11) FREE READ. “Grant Morrison Releases a Sci-Fi Comic He Made Back in the ’80s” and Gizmodo invites you to read it in a slideshow presented at the link.

Grant Morrison, multiple award-winning writer of acclaimed comic books like All-Star Superman, The Invisibles, Doom Patrol, New X-Men, Batman, and many many more, had a special gift released this past Free Comic Book Day. In wasn’t a new title; in fact, it was quite the opposite—a 40-year-old short story he’d written and drawn in the very early stages of his career. While Morrison originally posted it on their SubStack, we’re absolutely honored to be able to republish it on io9.

(12) A KALEIDOSCOPIC AUDIENCE. Charles Payseur, who now is reviewing short fiction for Locus and stepped away from his epic Quick Sip Reviews blog, speaks openly about how public expectations whipsaw critics. Thread starts here.

(13) ABANDONED LAUNDRY. The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan says, “Steven Moffat’s adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 bestseller is witty and well done, but it can’t overcome the novel’s depressingly old-fashioned and iffy implications.” – “The Time Traveler’s Wife review – far too much ick factor to be truly great”.

…He [The Time Traveler] learns to find his feet (and some clothes) a little faster each time. In the course of his many unchronological journeys, he meets his soulmate, Clare. They are wrenched repeatedly from each other’s arms to reunite weeks, months or years later in more or less romantic scenarios, depending on their ages at the time.

It is, in short, guff of a high order. But the new six‑part adaptation (Sky Atlantic) by Steven Moffat (a longtime fan of the book, which he used as inspiration for the Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace) does it proud. He takes the melodrama down a notch and salts the schmaltz with wit where he can.

Nonetheless, an emetic framing device remains….

(14) TELL NASA WHAT YOU THINK. “NASA Seeks Input on Moon to Mars Objectives, Comments Due May 31”.

As NASA moves forward with plans to send astronauts to the Moon under Artemis missions to prepare for human exploration of Mars, the agency is calling on U.S. industry, academia, international communities, and other stakeholders to provide input on its deep space exploration objectives. 

NASA released a draft set of high-level objectives Tuesday, May 17, identifying 50 points falling under four overarching categories of exploration, including transportation and habitation; Moon and Mars infrastructure; operations; and science. Comments are due to the agency by close of business on Tuesday, May 31. 

“The feedback we receive on the objectives we have identified will inform our exploration plans at the Moon and Mars for the next 20 years,” said Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “We’re looking within NASA and to external stakeholders to help us fine-tune these objectives and be as transparent as possible throughout our process. With this approach, we will find potential gaps in our architecture as well as areas where our goals align with those from industry and international partners for future collaboration.”   

(15) WEIRDO CEREAL NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Not even kids stoked on sugar wanted to see creepy creatures staring at them from the cereal bowl, so I bought a box on the half-price shelf today. “Minecraft” at Kellogg’s.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Blue Peter gang drive a full-scale Thunderbirds Fab-1 complete with a rotating license plate, machine gun, and a closed-circuit TV set in this 1968 BBC clip that dropped yesterday.

Blue Peter presenters Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves bring a fully-functioning life-size replica of Lady Penelope’s iconic Rolls-Royce, FAB 1 into the studio.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/22 Earth, Be Glad! An April Scroll Is Born

(1) GAIMAN AND DORAN. The Guardian has made the full video of the livestream event with Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran available online now, introducing their new graphic novel Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics. In comic shops now, in bookstores next week.

(2) AS TIME GOES BY. Rachel Birenbaum, author of a time travel novel, discusses why time travel stories remain an important part of sf. “On Time Travel and Metafiction” at CrimeReads.

…Every iteration begins with rules. The author has to create their universe and dictate how long time travel lasts, how it’s done, how it might affect the protagonist physically, and more. Most tales send people hurtling forwards or backwards with orders not to affect anything but their target. While all the rules are different, the reason behind time travel is almost always the same: regret….

(3) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY. “LOTR Fitness Challenge Asks You To Walk From The Shire To Mordor To Rid Evil From The World”GameSpot has the details.

Looking to get in shape but need some extra motivation? A new gamified exercise program challenges players to log workouts in the real world as they virtually follow The Lord of the Rings characters Frodo and Sam from The Shire to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.

The Conqueror Virtual Challenges has teamed up with Warner Bros. for a new series of five virtual challenges based on The Lord of the Rings movies. Anyone can take part in exercises of varying lengths, with the ultimate goal of making it all the way to Mordor to destroy the ring.

The Conqueror Challenges app has been updated with a Middle-earth map that has five challenges to unlock: The Shire, The Fellowship, Mines of Moria, The Eye of Sauron, and the Mordor. Participants can run, cycle, swim, or walk to reach the set distance, and each stop has stories and postcards detailing Frodo and Sam’s journey. The distances are listed below….

(4) COUNT HIM OUT. “Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat ‘can confidently say’ he’s done showrunning”. Radio Times has quotes.

“I think I can confidently say I’m done showrunning Doctor Who,” Steven Moffat (who was in charge of Doctor Who from 2010 to 2017) told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party.

“Everyone can stop worrying. I did it for six seasons on the trot. And I cannot imagine going back into doing that. I cannot. I simply cannot picture it.”

He added: “I loved the show. I don’t want anyone to think I didn’t love the show. And I loved every second I spent on it, although some of them were hellish. But I’ve done that. I have done it and I did it a lot.

“So no offence and no disrespect and certainly no disdaining of wonderful memories. But no, I will not be showrunning Doctor Who again.”

(5) AN APPEAL TO AUTHORS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Russia has been using SF/F fiction for a few years now to promote propaganda against Ukraine.

Even back in 2006 at the Eurocon in Ukraine it was possible to see how Russian publishing dominated over Ukrainian in that country. However, since then Russian propaganda against Ukraine has appeared in fiction including fantasy.

For example Eduard Limonov in Kyiv Kaput has written an alternate universe history of Ukraine that ends up predicting events in the future.

Mockups Design

Chytomo – the Ukrainian publishing news site – has created a pie chart of Russian publishers and the number of such propaganda books they publish.

Western writers may wish to note — once all this ghastly business is over — who these publishers are and avoid them translating western works. The chart is here.

Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk also commented, “This is an important article, it explains why we ask authors not to provide foreign rights to Russian publishers.” “50 propaganda books against Ukraine and incitement to hatred against Ukrainians from Russian publishers” at Chytomo.

…Another problem was propaganda.

 Since 2009, Russia has been actively publishing books on the war between Russia and Ukraine in the «fantasy» genre, as well as «historical» and nonfiction literature about the «collapse of the Ukraine project» and mocking the independence of the «non-existent» Ukrainian people, «artificial» Ukrainian language.

These books can be easily found on the Internet for purchase and in services for open access books. In addition, children’s books began to offer more and more poems about the «great Russian army» that was coming to free everyone. 

The import of books from Russia was limited in 2017 due to their aggressive content. Only books with anti-Ukrainian printed materials were restricted, such as publications aimed at eliminating Ukraine’s independence, promoting violence, inciting ethnic, racial, religious animosity, carrying out terrorist attacks, and violating human rights and freedoms. The State Committee of television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine was entrusted with the functions of examination and issuance of permits.

The State Committee of television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine processed more than 45,000 applications during this period: issued 39,416 permits to import  publishing products, 5,275 refusals and revoked  2,227 previously issued permits.

Among the publications not allowed on the territory of Ukraine, many publications belong to authors who have been included in the lists of persons who pose a threat to national security — in particular, Zakhar Prilepin, Alexander Dugin and Alexander Tamonikov. The latter is «famous» because the list of anti-Ukrainian publications includes 20 of his works at once, not just with propaganda elements, but those whose sole purpose is to incite hatred against Ukraine and Ukrainians.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1978 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Much to my surprise, forty-four years ago a series called Quark aired as mid-season replacement on NBC. Why surprises me is that it only lasted eight episodes. I swear I remember it lasting longer than that. 

It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It was co-produced by David Gerber who had been responsible for the series version of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (try not to hold that against him) and Mace Neufield who after being a talent agent for such acts as The Captain and Tennille became responsible for The Omen as the producer. 

The cast was Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson Richard Kelton Tricia Barnstable, Cyb Barnstable, Conrad Janis, Alan Caillou and Bobby Porter. The Barnstable twins got a lot of press, mostly for the fact that they didn’t wear much and really, really could not act. They previously appeared as the Doublemint Twins often with identical canines. I kid you not. 

Ok, so how is the reception? Oh you have to ask? Seriously? One reviewer summed it up this way: “Only lasting eight episodes, it is eight episodes too many. The idea of spoofing science fiction is a given and there are only a handful that get it right, but this is a spectacularly awful show.” And another said succinctly that “A viewer seeking something a little different may find the series entertaining, but low expectations are a must.” 

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It might be streaming on Crackle and Philo, two services that I’ve never heard of. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula like figure here, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers here, and finally, the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship here. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 (2018) for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve books and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many or even which ones that I read but I’m certain that it was quite a few as I really, really loved this series. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m equally sure there were other novels down the years. He was a 1996 Worldcon guest of honor at L.A.con III. It appears that only a handful of his novels are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 83. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead who was seriously into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of his include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one here has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Another who died far, far too young. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award at Denvention Two. The Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. (He also did the Inspector Gadget film which I still haven’t seem.) He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that his four Oscars include a pair he won for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 71. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single “Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’s A Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000. (CE) 

(8) WORLD BUILDER. “How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (a review)” by Brenton Dickieson at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

…Thus, while Jemisin has become a leading figure, her influence and prestige have come through two decades of unrelenting commitment to sophisticated world-building, culturally rich, character-driven literary prose, and a remarkable capacity for experimental writing. This concentration of character-voice combined with a disciplined approach to speculative world-building appears in some of Jemisin’s best writing in How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

The true Jemisin fan is going to be particularly thrilled to participate in some of her short story experiments that later become novels or full series. “The Narcomancer” has a tinge of a melancholy sweetness, a story of conscience and vocational risk that becomes part of the Dreamblood series (which I haven’t read yet). “Stone Hunger” was exciting for me to read, for I was privileged to see how Jemisin began to conceptualize the extremely complex character make-up of The Broken Earth Trilogy–and how deeply implicated the characters are in that universe with the speculative world itself. And “The City Born Great” has all the terrifying brilliance and bracing goodness of The City We Became–an experiment in allegorical fiction that I have argued (here and here) is more successful in this short story than in the full novel….

(9) THIS JUST IN. From the authors themselves: “Getcher new Lee & Miller news right here!”

Three Liaden Universe® titles to be released by Baen in 2023
Scout’s Progress will be reissued in a new mass market/ebook edition March 2023
Salvage Right* will be published in Summer 2023
Trade Lanes** will be published in Fall 2023

Liaden Universe® Constellations audiobook editions
Tantor Media will be releasing the first four Liaden Universe® Constellations, starting in June.  Go to this link, and click on the individual titles to preorder.

Trade Lanes audiobook edition
We are in contact with our publisher and hope to have news regarding the Trade Lanes audiobook edition soon.  As soon as we have it, you’ll have it.  Promise

_________________
*Salvage Right is set on Tinsori Light after the events described in Neogenesis. The cast of characters includes, but is not limited to: Jen Sin yos’Phelium, Seignur Veeoni, Tocohl Lorlin, Lorith, Tolly Jones, Hazenthull nor’Phelium, Theo Waitley

**Fair Trade is the third book following the adventures of Jethri Gobelyn ven’Deelin, who made his first, admittedly awkward, bow in Balance of Trade; his second, somewhat more nuanced, in Trade Secret.

(10) ON STAGE AT CALTECH. A musical adaptation of Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon will be performed by Theater Arts at Caltech (TACIT) in Pasadena’s Ramo Auditorium on six times next week – see full details at the link.

From the Earth to the Moon

From the writers of the record-breaking Caltech musical Boldly Go! comes a fresh new science fiction musical based on the Jules Verne classic written in 1865. Gauntlets are thrown, headlines made, duels waged, and alliances put to the test in this dynamic imagining of spaceflight in the late nineteenth century directed by Brian Brophy.

…TACIT, as Theater Arts at Caltech is familiarly known, typically prepares and performs two or three plays each academic year. Recent productions include She Kills Monsters, Avenue Q, Rent, Company and many original projects.

Members of the Caltech community have the opportunity to learn all aspects of the theatrical craft—acting, stage crew, set construction, wardrobe, light and sound operation, properties, house management, and publicity—and to work with professionals in areas of theater design: set, light, sound, costume, and music. This is a hands-on approach, not classroom theory. It also provides an appreciation of the theatrical literature and exposure to the literature of many languages (in translation). 

(11) HOLY GUACAMOLE. The New York Times invites you to “Meet DALL-E, the A.I. That Draws Anything at Your Command”.

At OpenAI, one of the world’s most ambitious artificial intelligence labs, researchers are building technology that lets you create digital images simply by describing what you want to see.

They call it DALL-E in a nod to both “WALL-E,” the 2008 animated movie about an autonomous robot, and Salvador Dalí, the surrealist painter.

OpenAI, backed by a billion dollars in funding from Microsoft, is not yet sharing the technology with the general public. But on a recent afternoon, Alex Nichol, one of the researchers behind the system, demonstrated how it works.

When he asked for “a teapot in the shape of an avocado,” typing those words into a largely empty computer screen, the system created 10 distinct images of a dark green avocado teapot, some with pits and some without. “DALL-E is good at avocados,” Mr. Nichol said….

(12) HE’S NOT HEAVY, HE’S MY BOSON. The W boson is not bigger on the inside, but it’s bigger than anticipated: “’Huh, That’s Funny’: Physicists Delighted by New Measurement for the W Boson” reports Gizmodo.

A collaboration of hundreds of scientists have precisely measured the mass of the W boson, an elementary particle responsible for the weak nuclear force. The researchers found, to their surprise, that the boson is more massive than predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, the working theory that describes several of the fundamental forces in the universe….

(13) A BAD DAY IN NORTH DAKOTA A LONG TIME AGO. “Tanis: Fossil of dinosaur killed in asteroid strike found, scientists claim”. BBC News says the artifact will be seen in a Sir David Attenborough production to be broadcast April 15.

Scientists have presented a stunningly preserved leg of a dinosaur.

The limb, complete with skin, is just one of a series of remarkable finds emerging from the Tanis fossil site in the US State of North Dakota.

But it’s not just their exquisite condition that’s turning heads – it’s what these ancient specimens are purported to represent.

The claim is the Tanis creatures were killed and entombed on the actual day a giant asteroid struck Earth.

The day 66 million years ago when the reign of the dinosaurs ended and the rise of mammals began.

Very few dinosaur remains have been found in the rocks that record even the final few thousand years before the impact. To have a specimen from the cataclysm itself would be extraordinary.

The BBC has spent three years filming at Tanis for a show to be broadcast on 15 April, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Sir David will review the discoveries, many that will be getting their first public viewing.

Along with that leg, there are fish that breathed in impact debris as it rained down from the sky.

We see a fossil turtle that was skewered by a wooden stake; the remains of small mammals and the burrows they made; skin from a horned triceratops; the embryo of a flying pterosaur inside its egg; and what appears to be a fragment from the asteroid impactor itself….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in “Morbius Pitch Meeting,” a spoiler-filled episode, says that Dr. Michael Morbius drinks vampire bat blood which causes him to bulk up “like a Calvin Klein underwear model.” But the producer tells the screenwriter to add many more references to Spider-Man, Vulture, and other Marvel characters because “we’re in the MCU now” at Sony.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cleo Campion, Daniel Dern, Borys Sydiuk, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/22 Something Pixel This Way Scrolls

(1) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Somtow Sucharitkul told Facebook friends his movie The Maestro will play in L.A. in June. (See the story of the film here.) He wants help to make its appearance a hit.

To my friends in Los Angeles:

THE MAESTRO will open at one of the Laemmle theaters, probably in June, exact dates and location TBA.

Before then, I would like to mobilize the F/SF/H community, the Thai community, and the Music community to try to make the run a success and even to push it beyond one week.

So happy to be following in the footsteps of Dakota Loesch and Scott Monahan the creators of “Anchorage” which just enjoyed a run with this chain.

Any friends of mine in L.A. who would like to help me organize all our potential viewers, need all the grassroots help we can get! I will fly in for the opening for sure, and maybe some others from the team.

(2) PREGENERATION. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker announces pregnancy at Brit Awards 2022”Metro News has the story.

Jodie Whittaker revealed exciting news as she graced the Brit Awards 2022 red carpet, confirming she is pregnant with her second child. 

The Doctor Who actress attended the star-studded awards ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday wearing a dress from British designer Chimone. 

(4) ARTIFICER INTELLIGENCE. “Artist uses AI to perfectly fake 70s science fiction pulp covers – artwork and titles”CDM Create Digital Music will tell you how.

The way a lot of press gets this wrong, of course, is to say things like “the AI made some sci-fi book covers.” Even as these algorithms get a lot more sophisticated than averaged pixels or a Markov chain, they are still just algorithms, lacking in agency, albeit with enormous data sets as source material. In turn, though, that makes some of the aesthetic peculiarities they generate all the more interesting, and means that it’s helpful to understand them as generative tools in the hands of artists. They’re the outcome of a lot of human effort in mathematics, code, and ultimately human choice, even if that last bit upsets those in search of general artificial intelligence.

Lewis Hackett is that artist, and cleverly selected what we’re seeing, combining a graphics technique called Clip Guided Diffusion for the imagery with familiar GPT3 techniques for the titles. And he’s done a great job selecting the results and aping the typography style by hand….

(5) SPACE ODYSSEYS – HOW LIKELY? At The Space Review Jeff Foust asks, “Are space movie studios sci-fi fantasies?”

Remember all the excitement a couple years ago when Hollywood media reported that Tom Cruise planned to film a movie in space? The NASA administrator at the time, Jim Bridenstine, confirmed that NASA was in talks with the famous actor for filming some kind of movie—no one was really sure what it would be about—on the International Space Station, but there’s been little overt progress since then. Cruise remains grounded for the foreseeable future: given the schedule of missions to the ISS, the soonest he could go is early 2023.

Those reports did apparently convince the Russians to do their own space movie, called The Challenge, with the cooperation, and maybe financial support, of Roscosmos. A director and an actress flew to the station in October to film scenes of a movie that’s supposed to come out later this year, putting The Challenge in line to become the first feature-length dramatic movie with major parts of it filmed in space (a distinction that’s required for earlier documentaries or Richard Garriott’s short spoof Apogee of Fear.) Take that, Tom Cruise!

Both Cruise’s rumored plans and the upcoming Russian film seem to have convinced people there’s a market for shooting movies in space. Last month, Axiom Space, a company adding commercial modules to the space station that will later become part of a standalone commercial space station, said it had been selected by a company called Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) to build an “inflatable microgravity entertainment venue” called SEE-1 that would be attached to its own commercial modules….

(6) SCIENTISTS IN SCIENCE FICTION. Dream Foundry is adding videos of Flights of Foundry 2021’s programming to their YouTube channel.  Some highlights include “The Unhelpful Legacy of Mad Scientists: Writing Scientists as Positive Role Models” with Octavia Cade, Benjamin C. Kinney, and Arula Ratnakar, moderated by Sid Jain. View on YouTube.

(7) MARTIAN HOP. You can still enjoy the online portion of the “Mars. The Red Mirror” exhibit at the Centre de CulturaContemporània de Barcelona: “Inside the red mirror”.

This is a virtual space where you can imagine your own view of Mars: god, symbol and planet in its different metamorphoses. You may have visited the exhibition or simply clicked on to this page skipping between links and other everyday internet browsings. It depends on how much time you want to spend, how much concentration is required and how curious you are….

The voice of the meteorite

I am a rare stone. Call me KSAR Ghilane 002 or whatever name your imagination conjures up. I come from Mars. I have travelled through space for thousands of years until I reached my unexpected destination in the desert you call the Sahara. I was discovered as a result of the insatiable curiosity for exploring that is inherent to your species. Now you can see one of my fragments. I come from the deepest strata on the Red Planet. I have a story to tell you. Because I am also a meteor, like the storms, typhoons and hurricanes you can’t control.

(8) DOUGLAS TRUMBULL (1942-2022). Director and special effects creator Douglas Trumbull died February 7 at the age of 79. He directed Silent Running. Trumbull got three Academy Award nominations for visual effects (for Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and, in 1992, a special scientific and engineering award for his work helping to design the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for motion picture photography. In 2012, he received the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a special technical Oscar for his contributions to the industry. The Associated Press has an extensive tribute: “’2001,’ ‘Blade Runner’ effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull dies”.

(9) ROBERT BLALACK (1948-2022). Oscar-winning Star Wars visual effects artist Robert Blalack died February 2. Deadline highlights his career.

… At the age of 29, he designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars. Much of what he created for the film was built on a (relative) shoestring. With a VFX budget of just $1.6 million for the film, Blalack made use of obsolete VistaVision optical composite equipment from Hollywood’s Golden Years that could be had for a song.

“My task was to scavenge the Hollywood junkyards for any VistaVision Composite Optical mechanics,” he wrote, “figure out how to upgrade those relics with custom state-of-the-art optics, design a photographic process to mass-produce the movie’s 365 VistaVision composites, and then train and supervise the Star Wars Composite Optical crew.”

The result was what he called, “This Rube Goldberg assemblage of ancient composite printer hardware, state-of-the-art optics and the mass-production blue screen color-difference composite techniques were the backbone of the celluloid system…subsequently used on all ILM VistaVision VFX Composite Opticals.”

Blalack was part of the team that founded Industrial Light and Magic, and again the effort was driven by necessity….

In 1983, Blalack added an Emmy to his trophy case for his work on ABC’s The Day After, a TV movie about a nuclear holocaust which captured the public imagination due in no small part to his visual effects. It was seen by 100 million people in the U.S.

His other credits would comprise a career to be proud of unto themselves. They include effects on Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos; transformational visions in Altered StatesWolfenCat People and RoboCop; and FX in service of comedic classics such as Airplane and The Blues Brothers.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifteen years ago on this evening, the short-lived Flash Gordon series that debuted on Sci-Fi on August 10, 2007 ended. The series was developed by Peter Hume who served as executive producer and the showrunner. He wrote the first and last episodes of the series which lasted twenty one episodes as well as many others. He would later be the Executive Producer of Primeval: New World and was involved in Charmed and Fantasy Island as well. 

The primary cast which was all Canadian was Eric Johnson was Flash Gordon, Gina Holden as Dale Arden, Jody Racicot as Dr. Hans Zarkov and John Ralston as Ming the Merciless. Anna Van Hooft had a recurring role as Princess Aura. 

So how was it received? Not at all well as the New York Post stated in a frankly hostile review that it was “a disgrace to the name of the enduring comic-strip-character-turned-movie-and-TV space hero.” And U.K. TV Zone stated that it might  “have worked if the early episodes hadn’t been so dire that no-one but reviewers are still watching.” Ouch. It probably mercifully has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen it and would like to know how it was. So, who here has seen it?

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally, I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course, his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1905 Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957.  On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 8, 1918 Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. He also showed up in Green HornetMission ImpossibleI-Spy (ok I consider it genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980Man from AtlantisThe Six Million Dollar ManPlanet of The ApesKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 8, 1938 Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom, and he attended his first  Worldcon in 1963. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISFDB shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 8, 1944 Rogert Lloyd Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman. 
  • Born February 8, 1962 Malorie Blackman, 60. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms. 
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 53. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. Chair of the last Worldcon. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar.  She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”
  • Born February 8, 1979 Josh Keaton, 43. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series. 

(12) COMICS AS A CASE STUDY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Who knew? I did not: “Not Even a Superhero Could Fix Global Supply Chains” in The American Prospect.

World War II and 9/11 couldn’t halt comic book production; COVID did. In 2020, as the world flipped on its head, even comics couldn’t evade a concentrated economy’s bursting fault lines. Diamond Comic Distributors—the industry titan that distributed Marvel and DC Comics for a quarter-century—shut down operations in April 2020 for nearly two months.

While distribution eventually restarted, the industry has continued to suffer lags. Entering the third year of the pandemic, frustrations run deep among comic book enthusiasts. Paloma Deerfield has worked for more than five years at Vault of Midnight, a comic book shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her favorites include X-Men, Saga, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and the indie comic publisher Boom! Studios. It’s disappointing, says Deerfield, “not being able to stock the shelves the way we want to.”

Buyers and sellers alike are feeling the impact not only from comic book distribution delays, but also from a shortage of bags and boards—the materials used to preserve collections in mint condition.

At BCW Supplies, an Indiana-based company that provides over 900 hobby accessories for collectors and retailers, backing boards are processed in their Indiana facility, while plastic bags are produced in their China factories, according to marketing manager Ted Litvan.

The paper industry’s significant price increases, explained Litvan, are due to higher demand outside of the collectibles industry. In early 2021, Amazon and other e-commerce giants snatched up the majority of the world’s cardboard supply. The cost of producing corrugated cardboard tripled last year too. For imported goods, meanwhile, “the ports are a mess,” and BCW can no longer predict when a shipment will be available for final delivery….

(13) FREUD AND C.S. LEWIS DRAMATIZED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews Freud’s Last Session, a 2010 play by Mark St Germain about an imaginary encounter between Sigmund Freud and C S Lewis in 1939, that is on stage at the Kings Head Theatre (kingsheadtheatre.com) through February 12.  It stars Sean Browne as Lewis and Julian Bird as Freud.

Lewis, who finds himself repeatedly drawn to the couch as if by a magnet, talks about his childhood.  For Freud, in physical agony and contemplating his end, arguments about the finality of death feel far from theoretical.

For both men the imminent conflict (of World War II) weighs heavy.  Lewis still bears the scars of his First World War experience; Freud has recently fled Austria.  The conversation is interrupted by a couple of moments of mortal terror–an air road siren; the throes of aircraft overhead–well realised in Darney’s staging. Browne and Bird bring the two adversaries springing to life.

(14) NO MIRACLE ON 35TH STREET. Bob Byrne wrote a series showing members of The Wolfe Pack how Nero and Archie are riding out the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. Black Gate has been reprinting them, and the latest installment is: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35”.

…He eyed me levelly. “You know very well that you took that laundry to Lee’s as an infantile response to my insistence that the laundry go out that day. I highly doubt that Swann’s was closed.”

I was nonplussed. He continued. “No doubt, you instructed Mister Lee to put extra starch in my collars. And you added the cuffs out of spite.”

I gave him hurt expression number three. “I did no such thing.” I stared at the wall, thoughtfully. “Although, I did practice my Chinese with him. I might have said, ‘extra’ when I meant ‘less.’ My Chinese is a little rusty.”

He snorted. “Ridiculous. You don’t even speak Chinese.”

“Can’t get more rusty than that.”…

(15) AS YOU WISH. Kotaku explains now a “Sly NYT Crossword Puzzle Tricks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans”.

…The clever puzzle simply asks: “The better of two sci-fi franchises.” Depending on your preference, the answer is either Star Wars or Star Trek. The double entendre was highlighted in Wordplay, the Times’ crossword column along with a note about the choice from puzzle constructor Stephen McCarthy.

“I am a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, so it’s nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle,” McCarthy says in the column….

(16) SCIENCE IN A VACUUM. “Science and the Sublime” is an exhibit The Huntington in San Marino, CA has assembled around a famous painting temporarily on loan.

Feb. 12, 2022–May 30, 2022

Huntington Art Gallery

One of the great masterpieces from the Age of Enlightenment, Joseph Wright of Derby’s monumental An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) depicts a small group of people gathered around a candlelit table on which a lecturer in natural history is performing a scientific experiment, namely the creation of a vacuum, as described by chemist Robert Boyle in the 17th century. As air is slowly removed from a glass jar, the fate of a cockatiel inside the jar hangs in the balance. The observers’ reactions range from fascination to dismay. In Wright’s hands, the tableau is an exercise in the sublime, a moment of extreme tension recast as a dramatic meditation on the fragility of life. At the same time, the experiment being performed relates to advances in the fields of science and medicine, making the scene a celebration of human achievement.

“Science and the Sublime: A Masterpiece by Joseph Wright of Derby” presents the powerful 6-by-8-foot painting on loan from the National Gallery in London, where it is one of that institution’s most popular paintings, along with 15 works from The Huntington’s own collections, including two smaller paintings by Wright and 13 rare objects from the Library’s holdings. The exhibition’s theme highlights two major strengths of The Huntington’s collections—British art and the history of science—providing a unique opportunity to juxtapose materials that are not normally displayed together. Alongside Bird in the Air Pump, are rare books and ephemera that reveal the real science behind the elements that Wright depicts on canvas, as well as the contemporary moral and aesthetic debates with which he engages.

The loan of Bird in the Air Pump is part of a reciprocal exchange with the National Gallery, where The Huntington’s most famous work, Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic painting of The Blue Boy (ca. 1770), will be on display for London museumgoers for the first time in a century, from Jan. 25 through May 15, 2022.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Tom Becker, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, John A Arkansawyer, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) SFWA VOTING ON NEW MEMBERSHIP QUALIFICATIONS. At The World Remains Mysterious, Cat Rambo encourages SFWAns to support these “Possible Upcoming Changes to SFWA Membership”. SFWA members have until February 15 to cast their votes.

…An interesting development for SFWA that seems to have been flying under most people’s radar is that the organization’s members will be voting on whether or not to change the membership requirements in a way that the organization has not previously done. This may be one of the biggest changes made to the membership yet in the organization’s 50+ years of history.

The new qualifications: a writer can join as an Associate member once they have earned $100 over the course of their career, and as a Full member at the $1000 level.

That’s a huge and very significant change from the current, somewhat arcane membership requirements of $1000 over the course of a year on a single work to become a Full member. Particularly when you think that one of the most contentious propositions on the discussion boards in the past has been the idea of re-qualification, of making people prove they qualify on a yearly basis. Moving away from a system so complicated SFWA had to create a webform to walk people through whether or not they qualified to something like this is a big win in so many ways.

Cat follows up with six reasons SFWAns should vote for the change.

Meanwhile, she notes that the SFWA Board has already implemented another tool which did not require a membership vote:

One other change from the board meeting answers the question of how this affects the idea of “SFWA qualifying markets,” which has in the past been used as a way to make sure fiction markets increased their rates every once in a while. We’re going to see a fiction matrix that looks at a number of factors, including pay, but also response time, quality of contract, etc. It’s very nice to see this long overdue project finally manifest, and I bear as much guilt as anyone in the long overdue part, since I was around when it was first proposed and should have kicked it along significantly harder than I did. I’m very happy to see this and ten thousand kudos to the people who made it happen.

An email sent to SFWA members in January (which I did not receive from Cat) explains the new matrix:

Short Fiction Matrix: The Short Fiction Committee has developed a plan to replace the current Market Qualifying list with a Short Fiction Matrix that will better evaluate the professionalism of short fiction markets and model best practices. This is not contingent on the bylaws vote; the Board has already approved this plan to respond to changes needed to the membership criteria to admit newly voted-in categories of SFWA members. As a result, the current Market Qualifying list is less useful to prospective members, many of whom are deterred from applying by mistakenly assuming that only works sold to markets on the Market Qualifying list make them eligible to apply.  

The move to a matrix will better fulfill SFWA’s mission to promote and educate on writer-friendly practices in our industry. It will also aim to correct misperceptions that SFWA’s minimum professional rate is the only benchmark that a publisher must meet to be considered professional. SFWA will continue to fight for fair and equitable conditions across SF/F and related-genre markets via a minimum professional per-word rate, but additional metrics will give us more tools to use to achieve that goal. We are not abandoning the minimum professional rate at all, but reinforcing it with this matrix. SFWA recognizes the importance that this rate has served in the industry and plans to preserve that outside of the membership qualification criteria. 

The rate is meant to encourage better pay for creators, not limit their chances to participate in their professional organizations.

Ten categories have been proposed to comprise the matrix, including wordcount payment rate, payment procedures, good contract practices, audio and translation rights, and promotional efforts, among others. Precisely how each category is evaluated and the points assigned are still in discussion…. 

(2) THEY ASKED. Marlon James did an Ask Me Anything session for Reddit’s r/Books community today: “I’m Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and the forthcoming MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING!”

Marlon James

LElias2784: Hi Marlon! So excited that you’re doing this! Can you tell us how you developed the maps that are printed in the books?

MJ: The great thing about writing say, New York is that the city is there. Make up a place and you need a world for the characters to move around. I have to bear in my two things, which might seem at odds. 1. The world is new to the reader, so a lot of world building needs to happen, but 2. it’s not new to the characters and they can’t move through it like a tourist, which means I can’t move around like a tourist. So I sketch a rudimentary map before I even write a word. And it helps to define the place. But as the book gets deeper, the maps gets more detailed, until I reach the point where the book is following the map, not the other way around. This creates challenges, for example, by adding up the distance travelled by a character you might realize that they weren’t gone a week, but a year. Or instead of reaching a new destination, they merely circled back to the old. Which means constant modifications. OR you get to the point where the map IS the standard and the prose is what has to change. I appreciate that part actually, because I can say nope, can’t write that because that’s not in the map….

(3) NEW INTERVIEW SERIES LAUNCHES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I have decided to interview authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books in a probably futile attempt to restore Best Related Work from “Best response to whatever annoyed us at last year’s Worldcon.” Here’s the introductory post: “Introducing Non-Fiction Spotlights”.

… So I want to shine a spotlight on works of long form non-fiction that came out in 2021. The main focus of this series will be on non-fiction books, whether academic or popular, though I will also feature the occasional documentary or blog series. And indeed the first installment of this series will feature a non-fiction book which started out as a series of blogposts. I am not looking for essays, articles, poems, Twitter threads, virtual cons, podcasts, archives, databases, recommendation lists and similar projects at the moment, no matter how worthy….

And here is the first interview: “Non-Fiction Spotlight: The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton”. Cam was kind enough to act as my guinea pig, so I can hopefully persuade more authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction to take part.

What prompted you to write your book?

I’d been thinking of a project like this for some time but the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol was a specific impetus. I wanted to talk about how a section of the US population had become entranced by ideas that seemed so sharply at odds with reality. The overlap between the thinking of some of the key figures in the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns and issues such as Covid-denial and election-fraud conspiracy theories was substantial. One key personality from that time had become a major promoter of Qanon, another had been an early proponent of anti-covid-lockdown protests and yet another had been an active proponent of election-fraud conspiracy theories. I really wanted to trace the journey that people went through and how the earlier (fairly minor) conflict foreshadowed later events.

(4) LEDE GENERATOR. Rodolfo Ocampo extended an invitation to the internet: “As part of my PhD, I’m researching human-AI creative interaction. I created a little tool where you can write two themes and see the beginning of a story come alive.” You can try it here: Narrative Device.

I was asked to enter two themes. I gave the AI “hamburger” and “moon.” Here’s what I got back:

The moon was full and shining brightly in the sky. The stars were out, and it was a beautiful night. A family of four was out eating a hamburger at a local burger joint. They were all enjoying their meal, when the father said, “I love hamburgers. They’re such a classic.” His children agreed, and the mother said, “I love moon pies. They’re so yummy.”

(5) SUPER BOWL RINGS. Usually a few Super Bowl commercials have genre elements. This year one will be about a major genre production: “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Trailer to Air During Super Bowl” on February 13.

… The official first look video of the most expensive TV series ever made (the first season costs at least $465 million) will debut during Super Bowl LVI.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon releasing tease-y character posters showing merely the torsos and hands of its cast.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread darkness across Middle-earth….

(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HOBAN. Evelyn C. Leeper invites Russell Hoban fans to enjoy her webpage of “Russell Hoban Reviews”. “Hoban’s style is (to me) quintessential magic realism, and incredibly poetic, and I wish his adult books were not so hard to find.”

(7) IAN KENNEDY (1932-2022). Comics artist Ian Kennedy died this month – 2000 AD has a profile: “Ian Kennedy 1932-2022”.

…It is no hyperbole to describe Kennedy as a legend of British comics. With a career spanning more than seven decades, his meticulously detailed but dynamic work graced dozens of titles, from Hotspur to Bunty, from Commando to 2000 AD.

… As tastes changed, so did the audience for his work. His style adapted perfectly to the new generation of science-fiction comics like 2000 AD, for which he worked for on strips such as ‘Invasion’, ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘M.A.C.H.1’, as well as on ‘Ro-Busters’ for stablemate Star Lord. One of his most covers featured the perfect intersection of his changing career – Messerschmitt 109s from World War Two transported to the skies over Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, with one pilot screaming “Himmel! This isn’t Stalingrad!”.

His richly coloured art, with his particular skill for sleek, dynamic and functional machines and spacecraft, was perfect for the relaunch of ‘Dan Dare’ in Eagle in the 1980s as well as Blake’s 7M.A.S.K., the short-lived IPC title Wildcat….

(8) ANGÉLICA GORODISCHER (1928-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Argentinian author of SFF and many other things Angélica Gorodischer has died at the age of 93. For some reason, there have been almost no obituaries in the English language world, not even from places like The Guardian, where you might expect to find them. Locus had a brief item and here is a longer tribute from an obscure news site: “Angélica Gorodischer, the woman who imagined universes” at Then 24.

…She knew from a very young age that she would dedicate herself to writing. Perhaps she did not imagine that she, as a declared feminist writer since the 1980s, would leave a singular mark on literature written in the Spanish language. The true homeland of Angélica Gorodischer, who died at her home in Rosario at the age of 93, was books: the books she read and those she wrote, among which Trafalgar (1979) and the stories of Kalpa Imperial (1983) stand out. The latter was translated into English by none other than Ursula K. Le Guin, the greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon science fiction.

Gorodischer’s best novel, Prodigies, is not sff but was translated into English by Sue Burke, another noted sff author.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago at  ConJosé where Tom Whitmore and Kevin Standlee were the Chairs and Vernor Vinge was the author guest,  David Cherry the artist guest, Bjo & John Trimble fan guests and Ferdinand Feghoot was the imaginary guest (ok, would someone explain that choice please), Neil Gaiman wins the Best Novel Hugo for the best excellent American Gods

Five novels made the final nomination list: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, Connie Willis’ Passage, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, Robert Charles Wilson‘s The Chronoliths and Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep.

It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and be nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, a BFA for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy for Best Novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1908 Larry “Buster” Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do all three, though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 81. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing StoneAt the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 73. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 72. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as she has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection, a World Fantasy Award winner, and The Jane Austen Book Club novel, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 
  • Born February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey  and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 7, 1955 Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voicing Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 62. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova and Julian Rome in Alien Hunter.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

From Bestie:

(12) FCBD 2022. Titan Comics unveiled artist Piotr Kowalski’s cover for their  Bloodborne Free Comic Book Day edition, which will be given out at participating comic shops on May 7.

Enter the city of Yharnam through the eyes of its citizens, when new hunters take to the streets to fight against the cruel and unusual epidemic that has gripped the city. In the black of night, families and faith will be tested… Based on the critically-acclaimed Bloodbourne video game!

(13) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Open Culture reviews some century-old predictions: “In 1922, a Novelist Predicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wireless Telephones, 8-Hour Flights to Europe & More”.

…In the Paris-born-and-raised George’s ancestral homeland, George Orwell described him as an author of what G.K. Chesterton called “good bad books,” singling out for praise his 1920 novel Caliban amid the “shoddy rubbish” of his wider oeuvre.

Still even authors of rubbish — and perhaps especially authors of rubbish — can sense the shape of things to come. For its edition of May 7, 1922, the New York Herald commissioned George to share that sense with their readers. In response he described a world in which “commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace,” reducing the separation of America and Europe to eight hours, and whose passenger steamers and railroads will have consequently fallen into obsolescence. “Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system,” resulting in generations who’ll never have seen “a wire outlined against the sky.”

That goes for the transmission of electricity as well, since George credits (a bit hastily, it seems) the possibility of wireless power systems of the kind researched by Nikola Tesla. In 2022, coal will take a distant backseat to the tides, the sun, and radium, and “it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.” As for the cinema, “the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.”…

(14) SOMETHING WAGNERIAN. The Rogues in the House podcast (which will be featured as a fancast spotlight soon) discusses Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane: “Some like it Rough – Karl Edward Wagner and Kane”.

The Rogues are joined by Whetstone Magazine editor Chuck Clark as they journey into the depths of esoteric time on a quest for a deeper understanding of the Sword & Sorcery mainstay, Kane the Mystic Swordsman and his creator, Karl Edward Wagner. Is this mysterious, flame-haired immortal a friend? Perhaps a foe? And what’s this about World Domination? Hang on to your fur-diapers and winged helms, it’s gon’ get rough!

(15) THEY DIDN’T START THE FIRE. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Jason Ray Carney, editor of Whetstone Magazine, Witch House Magazine and The Dark Man Journal at So I’m Writing a Novel… — “Interview with Jason Ray Carney of Whetstone Magazine”.

Oliver and Jason get to some INTERESTING places in their far-reaching discussion, including subjects like: writing workshops, working class literature, modernist literature, R.A. Salvatore as a literary gateway drug, starting a literary magazine & the origin of Whetstone, why he feels you shouldn’t send your best work to Whetstone, “mid-list exposure”, submitting for ultra low acceptance rate magazines, elevated language, Clark Ashton Smith, grading English papers by engineers, Jason’s role as academic coordinator for the Robert E. Howard foundation, Walter Benjamin, how a genre rooted in our past like sword & sorcery can give people an inspiring vision of something new…

(16) BOBA BATHOS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian interviews Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame who’s currently in The Book of Boba Fett as well as a long time Star Wars fan: “’I’ve had letters from klansmen’: Jennifer Beals on Flashdance, The L Word and fighting to get diverse stories told”.

… Now, she has entered a franchise with a fractionally longer Hollywood pedigree than her own, as Garsa Fwip in The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off of The Mandalorian – itself, of course, a spin-off of Star Wars. It takes a while to get your ear in to her natural register, which is playful, very literary and full of bathos. “It’s so exciting to be part of the lineage,” she says of Boba Fett. “It feels like a calling, like there’s some reason that the universe has decided that you’re going to enter into these stories.”…

(17) GENRE ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews  A Number, a 2002 play by Caryl Churchill that is playing at the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com) through March 19 and is about a father and son.

The son has just discovered that he is one of ‘a number’–a set of identical humans cloned from an original.  Every shred of their relationship is being reconfigured in his mind.  More shocking still, he’s not even number one:  Somewhere out there is another, older him–a son five years his senior who grew up in care.  Before long, Bernard 1 is in the kitchen too, with his own set of questions…

…Its genius as drama is that it (the play) relies on the skill of the actors to scope out the minute shifts in body language that bring these questions (about the purpose of life)) alive.  In (Lyndsey) Tuirner’s deftly calibrated staging, (Paapa) Essiedu is mesmerising as multiple iterations of one person.  As Bernard 2, he pads about the living room, apparently at ease.  But his hands, either buried in the cuffs of his overlong sweater sleeves or nervously flexing and grasping the air, tell a story of deep-set insecurity.  As Bernard 1, the original, abandoned son, he is tighter, sharper, angrier.  But as he listens to his father explain why he gave him up, he becomes entirely still–we see a man sunk in deep, bewildered pain.  It’s a superbly detailed performance.”

Sarah Hemming also reviews Alistair McDowall’s play The Glow, which is playing at the Royal Court Theatre (royalcourttheatre.com) through March 5.  The play is about a Victorian spiritualist named Mrs Lyall.

Here Mrs Lyall’s instinct to cheat death and reach into eternity proves key as the play slips its moorings and roves across time, rolling form glimpses of pre-history and Arthurian legend to the 1970s and 1990s and even the heat death of the universe.

Our woman (Mrs Lyall)  is a constant throughout:  a time-travelling stranger or spirit, permanently in search of a home.  She becomes symbolic of humanity’s nagging sense of profound loneliness:  the root of legend, myth and religion,  McDowall has said of this play, ‘I want it to feel like there’s a vast, undulating network of stories that you only get a sliver of,’ and he works to give the audience the same bird’s eye view as the woman, stepping outside linear time, allowing patterns to emerge and overlap.

(18) SPACE FOR A MEMORY. An asteroid has been named after trans electronic/pop music icon SOPHIE reports Nylon: “SOPHIE Is Forever Memorialized As An Asteroid”.

A little over a year since the sudden passing of avant-garde pop star and producer SOPHIE, she’s officially part of the solar system as an asteroid memorialized in her honor.

Back in February 2021, SOPHIE fan Christian Arroyo began a petition to dedicate the planet TOI-1338 b in honor of the late pop star, noting that the pale lavender, cloudy atmosphere of the planet (discovered in the summer of 2019 by Wolf Cukier) looked similar to the ethereal album cover art of SOPHIE’s debut record Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. “I am requesting that TOI-1338 b be named in honor of SOPHIE, in honor of a great LGBT+ influence,” wrote Arroyo. “I want her name to be remembered and her influence to continue to flourish for many years to come.”…

(19) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. Be careful out there.

(20) ARRAKIS STREET. A.V. Club is there when “Elmo, young Muppet, overcomes Dune’s Gom Jabbar test”.

Fresh off the heels of his career-invigorating feud with a rock that wants to take his oatmeal raisin cookie, Elmo has returned to the spotlight yet again to prove that he’s a thinking, feeling organism who deserves to be treated with greater respect than both inanimate objects and the world’s animals.

Since there is no better way for him to prove such a thing than to look to an ordeal devised by Frank Herbert in the novel Dune, Elmo has now been made to prove himself through an edit of the 2021 film adaptation’s take on the Gom Jabbar test….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Peer, N., Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon Dunn.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 12/1/21 Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls, Fresh Godstalked And Pixeled

(1) FUTURE RACE. Kathryn Finch discusses the way sff uses cross-species “hybrid” characters to discuss racial issues and how those depictions still often fail in “The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids” at Blood Knife.

…Whether it’s the regal elves and (literally) down-to-earth dwarves of the Lord of the Rings or the regal Vulcans and (not-so-literally) down-to-earth Klingons of Trek, world building often relies on generalizations. Race essentialism has been a useful shorthand for some writers, and giving each new race in a populous universe a specific “hat” to wear allows for the appearance of novelty and diversity, without the requirement to actually flesh out individual characters more than the minimum necessary for the purposes of the plot. This does not strike the casual observer as problematic, as the innate foreignness of a creature from another world is much more expected than any sort of familiarity.

And therein lies the problem. In the future, racism is not extinguished, but transformed. A conflict between two completely different species is patently understandable; they are, quite literally, otherworldly….

(2) LAVISH EDITIONS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] Unsurprisingly, Michael Dirda is living in our libraries. “Critic’s picks: Best illustrated nonfiction books” in the Washington Post.

What do Santa Claus, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a certain Washington Post reviewer and the Lord High Executioner from “The Mikado” all have in common? Give up? Each of us has been known to say, “I’ve got a little list.” This holiday season, though, my list isn’t so little. In fact, it will extend over three weeks. This is the first, focusing on large-sized, illustrated nonfiction….

‘Spider-Man,’ by Roy Thomas (Folio Society, $125)

To complement his three-volume historical sampler of Marvel Comics (“The Golden Age,” “The Silver Age,” “The Bronze Age”), the company’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, has begun to assemble additional volumes, each devoted to a major superhero. After last year’s Captain Marvel, this fall’s release showcases everyone’s favorite web-slinger in eight representative Spider-Man adventures, starring either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Given the ritzy Folio Society treatment, Spidey never looked so good — and that goes for his archenemies, too, including my grandson’s favorites, Venom and Doctor Octopus. So if you know someone enthralled by the Spider-Verse, your shopping is done.

(3) WATCH THIS SPACE. The Planetary Society lists “The Best of 2021” in space exploration. For example:

Most exciting planetary science moment

2021 was quite a year for space exploration firsts, but the one that voters loved best was the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight. On April 19th the little spacecraft took its first leap off the Martian surface, becoming the first aircraft to complete a powered, controlled flight on another planet. 

(4) AFRICAN BOOKS HONORED. Brittle Paper’s list of “50 Notable African Books of 2021” includes several genre works, most notably —

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

(Editor) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The collection celebrates African speculative fiction at its best, giving lovers of the genre an immersive experience of non-realist worlds. Well-known and new authors offer stories in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.

(5) DOUGLAS Q&A. Ian Douglas is one of the many pseudonyms for William H. Keith, creator of many sff works. Writer’s Digest has published an interview with him: “Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction”.

What prompted you to write this book?

Alien Hostiles is the second entry in a three-book series, picking up where Book One—Alien Agendas—leaves off and continuing with plot elements introduced there … though it can also be read as a stand-alone work.

My reason for writing the entire series was, I suppose, prompted by my distaste for the extremely bad science and logic behind so many current UFO conspiracy theories, most of which read like very bad B-movie sci-fi. I was at particular pains to weave those theories—those I chose to include, of course—into a seamless whole, a plausible story with at least some reasonable science behind it.

Probably the one idea that was the most important in shaping the entire series has to do with the ubiquitous alien Grays, those big-headed guys with big black eyes and spindly bodies we seem to see everywhere nowadays. It is my contention that the Grays are far, far too human to literally be alien life forms. At several points throughout each of the books, I introduce real aliens, and try to show how different they would be in anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology.

In this way I suppose I follow in the sandal-prints of Poo-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as I provide “corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”…

(6) EH? WHAT’S THAT? “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)” at SlashFilm.

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.

Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide” to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility…. 

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 145 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez and Connor Southard making their “Hugo Predictions Beer Run”. My hearing isn’t good enough to take a listen, which is too bad because there are a couple categories I’m curious to hear them talk about.

(8) SCORING ENCANTO. At Nerds of a Feather, Arthur Serrano’s “I’m Colombian. Here’s what ‘Encanto’ means to me” provides analysis of how the new Disney animated movie makes use of Colombian culture.

…So when I, a Colombian reviewer, draw attention to the significance of Mickey Mouse dancing cumbia at the end of Encanto, I’m absolutely not in any way framing it as our culture being finally worthy of being showcased by Hollywood. The question to ask is exactly the opposite: it’s whether Hollywood is worthy of getting its hands on our culture….

One example of it being deployed effectively:

…Just like in the United States you hear of a divide between the prosperous, educated, productive coastal cities vs. the neglected flyover country, in Colombia we have prosperous, educated, productive mountain cities vs. the neglected coasts and forests. It has become a habitual refrain to say that ruling elites in Colombia live secluded between mountains and oblivious to what goes on elsewhere. In the flashback scene where the matriarch of the Madrigal family loses her husband, bursts into tears and magically creates an entire town (am I the only one getting WandaVision vibes here?) so that she can raise her kids in safety, the most striking image is the rising of the mountains that keep her refuge closed off from the world. This is a symbolic clue to the persistent anxiety that defines this character: she’s afraid of everything outside of her microcosm.

It’s a brilliant move by the film to establish the grandmother’s character flaw in terms of her relation to physical space. It has been pointed out that Encanto is the rare adventure story where the adventure doesn’t leave the home, and there’s a solid reason for that. There’s a certain current in Colombian literature that treats the extended family household as a metaphor for the country…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-six years ago, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space premiered in the USA at theaters though details of where are scant to say the least. It was not released elsewhere in this manner as far I can determine. 

It is about the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a series akin to Captain Video. And it won’t surprise you that it was intended to pay homage to both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

The cast was Nichelle Nichols as Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea, Ron Perlman as Lord Vox of Vestron, Daniel Riordan as Ty Farrell / Captain Zoom, Liz Vassey as Princess Tyra, Native Leader of Pangea and Gia Carides as Vesper, High Priestess of Vestron. 

Reception was excellent with critics universally liking it. It hasn’t apparently been given a video release, nor does it apparently made it to the streaming services, so it has no rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaStar TrekNext GenLand of the GiantsThe Time TunnelMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceOuter LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. , Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice has altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 85. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series. And she played Adeline Fitzgerald on Glitch, the Australian paranormal series. It ran for seven seasons. 
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 79. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 59. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 57. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In her World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo at Chicon 7 is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. She even won an Aurora Award for her “Nidhog” poem! 
  • Born December 1, 1965 Bill Willingham, 56. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always quite ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series that he spun off of Fables. Though his House of Mystery was rather good. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIX-PACK. In “6 Books with Marissa Lingen”, Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets to hear what’s on a writer’s shelves, or might be soon.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Megan E. O’Keefe’s Catalyst Gate, which is the culmination of a trilogy that starts with Velocity Weapon. It’s space opera that’s filled with spaceships, alien intelligence, nanites, and shooty-shoot–and also personal relationships and the human heart. The series is full of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

(13) KDRAMA. The Silent Sea comes to Netflix on December 24.

With Earth in ruins, 24 hours on the clock, and the odds stacked against them, a team of space specialists embarks on a seemingly routine mission to the moon. But when things quickly take a turn for the worse, they’ll fight for their lives and uncover secrets that make their mission seem more and more impossible by the minute.

(14) THE MACHINES ARE TAKING OVER. ARE WE READY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for a bit of science culture from the nation that first put someone on the Moon (with the aid of Cavorite;).

A bit of one of the many cultural traditions in Brit Cit are the annual Reith LecturesBaron Lord Reith, in case your memory needs jogging, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC’s Reith Lectures were instituted in 1948 in his honour. These annual radio talks, with the aim of advancing “public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest” have been held every year since, with the exception of 1992.

This year the Reith Lectures’ topic will be Living With Artificial Intelligence. There will be one lecture per week this month broadcast Wednesdays 09.00 GMT. “The Reith Lectures – Reith Lectures 2021 – Living With Artificial Intelligence”.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Centre for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of California, Berkeley will be the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer. He will deliver four lectures this autumn, which will explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves.

The lectures will examine what Stu Russell will argue is the most profound change in human history as the world becomes increasingly reliant on super-powerful AI. Examining the impact of AI on jobs, military conflict and human behaviour, Stu Russell will argue that our current approach to AI is wrong and that if we continue down this path, we will have less and less control over AI at the same time as it has an increasing impact on our lives. How can we ensure machines do the right thing? The lectures will suggest a way forward based on a new model for AI, one based on machines that learn about and defer to human preferences

The first lecture (already broadcast and online) is entitled What is AI and should we fear it?

In it Stuart Russell reflects on the birth of AI, tracing our thinking about it back to Aristotle. He will outline the definition of AI, its successes and failures, and potential risks for the future. Why do we often fear the potential of AI? Referencing the representation of AI systems in film and popular culture, Russell will examine whether our fears are well founded. As previous Reith Lecturer Professor Stephen Hawking said in 2014, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Russell will ask how those risks arise and whether they can be avoided, allowing humanity and AI to coexist successfully.

The lectures will be downloadable as an .mp3 for a month after broadcast. The
first is here.

(15) TOP 10. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the United States in November 2021:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Free GuyThe Wheel of Time
2DuneDoctor Who
3GhostbustersCowboy Bebop (1998)
4Venom: Let There Be CarnageHawkeye
5Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsArcane
6Spider-ManFoundation
7Spider-Man: Far From HomeRick and Morty
8VenomBlade Runner: Black Lotus
9Spider-Man: HomecomingBattlestar Galactica
10The Amazing Spider-ManInvasion

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica reports “Russia threatens criminal charges against a NASA astronaut”.  (1) This traces back to the August 2018 “hole in the Soyuz” incident. (2) The headline implies criminal charges may be pending. That seems to be an overstatement, based on what is actually written in the article. The article could, however, have left out information that would support the headline.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment…. 

Since then, the focus has been on what—or who—may have caused the hole. A micrometeoroid strike was soon ruled out. Some Russian media reported that the hole had been caused by a manufacturing or testing defect, and this seems to be the most plausible theory. At the same time, however, sources in the Russian government started baseless rumors that perhaps a disgruntled NASA astronaut had drilled the hole….

(17) MONSTROUS BEHAVIOR. “2022 National Park Monsters Calendar” strikes me as a highly amusing product. However, the seller I ordered it from bit me with an $8.99 “tax” that was not shown to me as part of my order and now I am disputing it. So no link….

Real National Parks; Fake Monsters! It’s the 2022 Alternate Histories Calendar, packed with monsters, aliens, zombies, and other creatures rampaging through America’s National Parks.

(18) ONE HACKER’S OPINION. Behind a paywall at Wired, Andy Greenberg makes the argument that “The Matrix Is the Best Hacker Movie“ ever. Oh, he admits that the actual amount of hacking shown is quite small, but, quoting an early viewer of the movie, Neo understood that “by interfacing with this black screen with glowing green writing on it, he could change the world in ways that it was not necessarily meant to be changed.”

Or, in Greenberg‘s words, “The real hacking in The Matrix is metaphorical. The red-pill lesson Morpheus gives Neo is that a user in a digital system doesn’t have to abide by its terms of service.“

…For years the generally accepted canon of classic hacker movies has been a kind of holy trinity: 1983’s WarGames, with its digital delinquent caught up in Cold War geopolitics; the 1992 computers-and-cryptography heist film Sneakers; and 1995’s teen cyber-hijinks thriller Hackers. With a couple of decades of hindsight, however, it’s well past time to recognize that The Matrix has in some ways eclipsed that triumvirate. As other hacker films ossify, turning into computer cat-and-mouse-game time capsules, The Matrix has become the most abiding, popular, and relevant portrayal of hacking—a brain-plug jacked so deeply into our cultural conception of the genre that we’ve almost forgotten it’s there….

(19) WE HAVE IGNITION. Yahoo! recaps a network TV show which includes a genre Christmas light extravaganza: “Homemade ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decorations set high bar for Christmas displays”.

The holiday season was in full swing Sunday as ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight returned for yet another year. While there were no large crowds in attendance this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a festive celebration filled with thousands of lights and incredibly creative decoration themes. One of the more popular themes from the night was based on the stop-motion holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer pitch that all the fans who were mad at the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will pay to see a “loving tribute” to the original, including the last third that “follows the third act of the original, beat for beat.”  Also the writer has the producer play “product placement Mad Libs,” which is why we have characters buying a lot of Baskin-Robbins ice cream at Wal-Mart.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kurt Schiller, Jeffrey Smith, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Twisty Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/21 Escape From Pixel Scroll

(1) SUPERMAN MOTTO CHANGED.  The motto associated with Forties radio Superman, and the George Reeves TV show, and sporadically used since then, has been swapped for something else. The Daily Beast has the story: “DC Comics Changes Superman Motto, Swaps ‘American Way’ With ‘Better Tomorrow’”. Normally one would say “something new”, except this sounds like it was lifted from old GE advertising.

After more than 50 years of upholding “truth, justice, and the American way,” Superman is changing his motto.

The superhero will now stand for “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” DC Comics announced during its DC FanDome event Saturday. In a press release, the company said the motto will “better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC.”

“Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people from around the world, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement,” Jim Lee, the company’s publisher and chief creative officer, said….

Hard as it is to believe, alt-right Bounding Into Comics does not yet have a post up about the change.

(2) HOLLYWOOD AGREEMENT AVERTS STRIKE. AP reports “Strike dodged with deal between film and TV crews, studios”. Details of the new contracts were not immediately revealed.

An 11th-hour deal was reached Saturday, averting a strike of film and television crews that would have seen some 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers walk off their jobs and would have frozen productions in Hollywood and across the U.S.

After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement before a Monday strike deadline, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that had just gotten back to work after long pandemic shutdowns.

Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press.

The union’s members still must vote to approve the tentative agreement….

(3) THE JURY IS IN. In the “2021 Hugo Short Story Panel of Awesomeness”, Hugos There podcaster Seth Heasley is joined by Cora Buhlert, Ivor Watkins, Alan Bailey, Lise Andreasen, Sarah Elkins, JW Wartick, Lori Anderson, Haley Zapal, and Amy Salley to discuss the 2021 nominees for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. (The podcast version is here.)

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join the marvelous Sam Maggs for drinks on episode 156 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam Maggs

This time around, you’ll get to eavesdrop on my chat with Sam Maggs, a writer with whom I share an artistic bond, even though we’re from entirely different generations of comic book creators.

That’s because Sam wrote the adventures of the she/her Captain Marvel in 2019 — 42 years after I wrote about he/him Captain Marvel in 1977. She’s also written comics about Jem and the HologramsRick & MortyMy Little PonyTransformers, and Invader Zim. She’s published pure prose as well, including her first book The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the young adult novel The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope. Her games writing includes Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and many others.

We discussed the Stargate SG-1 convention that was her gateway drug for fandom, why her debut comic book story turned out to be a Star Trek tale, the way the arcs of our careers ran in completely opposite directions, what it was like releasing six books during a pandemic, how The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy was born though complete serendipity, the audition that got her the gig to write an Unstoppable Wasp novel, how she dreamed up her pitch for Captain Marvel, and much more.

(5) OFFICE IN THE OBSERVATORY. Brother Guy Consolmagno appears this week in Nature’s “Where I work” feature, including a photo of him peering through an antique telescope.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent the link, proud to remember Brother Guy is someone with whom he’d in the past (years ago) appeared with on a Worldcon panel:

Paul McAuley, Jonathan Cowie, Br. Guy Consolmagno

(6) RUN THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA says “We Need You! SFWA is Hiring a Nebula Conference Manager!”. Full guidelines at the link.

The SFWA Nebula CPM would be responsible for all project management activities associated with the annual SFWA Nebula Conference. In 2022, the organization will be offering a hybrid model of the conference, with both an online component and in-person event. The CPM would be leading the entire 2022 Conference, supervising and working closely with the online conference project manager. 

(7) NO HOLDING BACK. Tim Kirk shared Harlan Ellison’s special coffee recipe in a public post on the Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club page.

Back in the 1970s I made numerous trips up to Ellison Wonderland. Harlan had asked me to illustrate “The Last Dangerous Visions,” and I spent many Saturdays reading manuscripts in his living room; and I drank many cups of a delicious coffee mixture Harlan had concocted himself: “Cafe’ Ellison Diabolique.” This recipe was published in Anne McCaffrey’s very entertaining collection of recipes by SF and fantasy authors, “Cooking Out of This World” (Ballantine Books 1973). Harlan left out one Mystery Ingredient, which he later revealed to me: Ovaltine. Pictured here is the official Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Mug that Harlan gave me….

(8) SPEAKEASY. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that AI has advanced to the point that instantaneous translation of films is possible leading to a future without dubbing and subtitles. “Every movie and TV show could soon be dubbed into any language you want”.

… Traditional dubbing often works like this. A studio or local distributor, having decided it wants a local-language release, pays to translate a script, hire a set of voice actors to play the characters, rent out engineering equipment, put the actors through numerous voice takes, record them and then splice their readings back into the original video — a mighty grapple to achieve a smooth final product. The whole process can take months.

Auto-dubbing can work like this. The original actor records five minutes of random text in their own language. Then the machines take over: A neural network learns the actor’s voice, a program digests that vocal information and applies it to a digital translation of the script, then the AI spits out perfectly timed lines from the film in the foreign language and drops them into the action. The whole process could take weeks…

(9) RECLASSIFIED? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The first argument I’ve seen that Dhalgren is a horror novel. Andy Marino in “Under Your Skin: The Horror of the Inexplicable” on CrimeReads.

Consider the moment you wake from a nap into disorientation so pure, the first thing you see when you open your eyes—a lamp, a windowsill—is distorted and unfamiliar. You glitch. Draw a blank.

Imagine a distillation of this perception as an elusive high. I’d argue that the kind of fiction that bottles up this feeling and pours it down your throat is more terrifying than any haunted house, vengeful ghost, or Little Kid Who Sees Things.

That’s not to say that the time-honored elements of horror can’t be used to great and satisfying effect, or reconfigured into something wholly fresh. I’m not one to mess with the staples that make up so much of the horror I love. But it’s the off-kilter portrayal of the mundane, where reality comes unstitched in a vaguely sickening way, that really gets under your fingernails and lays its quivering eggs….

(10) MOUDRY OBIT. Southern fan Joe Moudry died October 15 reports Guy H. Lillian III. Moudry was a member of many amateur press associations (apas) over the years – the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA, where he once served as Official Editor), PAAPA, the Hyborian Legion, PEAPS, and was a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and its Official Editor in 1981.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years on this day, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was  first published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles who would publish the first five of this series.  It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia. Among all the author’s books, it is also the most widely held in American and British libraries. It would be illustrated by Pauline Baynes who would later do the artwork for some of Tolkien’s work.  It was extremely popular, despite the fears of the publisher that it wouldn’t be, from the moment it was published, and has remained so to this day. The movie of sixteen years vintage also enjoys an equally popular reception with a box office just behind Revenge of the Sith, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently giving it an eighty percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1854 Oscar Wilde. Writer, Journalist, Playwright, and Poet from Ireland whose only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, made into countless radio plays, musicals, TV films and movies — the 1945 version of which was awarded a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand — and had enduring influence on modern popular culture as an examination of morality. His long list of short fiction credits includes some fairy tales and genre stories, of which the best known is “The Canterville Ghost”, which has likewise undergone a copious number of translations and adaptations into various media. (Died 1900.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 96. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the  BSFA Award for Best Film and it’s based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. And I’ll toss in the stage production of The King and I where she was Anna Leonowens as that was at least genre adjacent.
  • Born October 16, 1940 Barry Corbin, 81. Actor whose face will be familiar from his many character roles — frequently as gruff military officers or crusty eccentrics — including those in genre movies WarGamesMy Science ProjectGhost DadRace to SpaceDawn of the Crescent Moon, Curdled, Critters 2, and Timequest, which appears to be an uncredited version of Greg Benford’s Timescape (which provided the name for the Pocket Books line of science fiction novels helmed by David G. Hartwell in the early 1980s). He narrated Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, based on the book by Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard.
  • Born October 16, 1956 Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, 65. Aside from appearing on Xena: Warrior PrincessStar Trek: Voyager, and Quantum Leap, she’s lent her voice acting to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexNarutoX-Men, and Bleach to name but a few of her roles. She was a Guest of Honor at Anime Expo 2007, Long Beach.
  • Born October 16, 1963 Glenn Glazer, 58. Conrunner and Fan who has been on the concoms for many Worldcons and regional conventions, chaired a Smofcon and a Westercon, and was one of three vice-chairs for Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. He has been involved in a number of APAs, including SWAPA, Mutations, The Calling, LASFAPA, APA-69, and APA-FNORD.
  • Born October 16, 1971 Lawrence Schimel, 50. Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. He is a founding member of The Publishing Triangle, an organization promoting fiction by LGBTQ authors and/or with LGBTQ themes, which inform many of his short fiction works. He has edited, mostly in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, at least 10 anthologies. His solo anthology, Things Invisible to See, and one of his short fiction collections were both recognized with Lambda Award nominations, and his speculative poetry has garnered a Rhysling Award nomination and a win. 
  • Born October 16, 1917 Claire Necker. This might be going a little astray from genre birthdays but I think not, given most of us have SJW creds. A librarian by trade, she wrote a number of feline related academic works including The Natural History of CatsSupernatural Cats: An Anthology which includes writers such as Fritz Lieber and H.P. Lovecraft , Four Centuries of Cat Books and Cat’s Got Our Tongue which is are feline cantered proverbs. She unfortunately has not made into the digital realm. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 48. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Äkta människor  (Real Humans) upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a famous monster with a terrible problem.

(14) GACHAPON. “A Tiny Gas Meter? The More Mundane the Better for Japan’s Capsule Toys” says the New York Times.

… Isolated in their plastic spheres, the tiny reproductions feel like a metaphor for Covid-era life. On social media, users — as gachapon designers insist on calling their customers — arrange their purchases in wistful tableaus of life outside the bubble, Zen rock gardens for the 21st century. Some have faithfully recreated drab offices, outfitted with whiteboards and paper shredders, others business hotel rooms complete with a pants press.

For Mr. Yamanishi, whose company, Toys Cabin, is based in Shizuoka, not far from Tokyo, success is “not about whether it sells or not.”

“You want people to ask themselves, ‘Who in the world would buy this?’” he said.

It’s a rhetorical question, but in recent years, the answer is young women. They make up more than 70 percent of the market, and have been especially active in promoting the toys on social media, said Katsuhiko Onoo, head of the Japan Gachagacha Association. (Gachagacha is an alternative term for the toys.)…

The products are not particularly profitable for most makers, but they offer designers a creative outlet and find a ready customer base in a country that has always had a taste for whimsy, said Hiroaki Omatsu, who writes a weekly column about the toys for a website run by the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.

“Creating gachapon for adults is all about devoting yourself to making something that’s worthless,” he said. “‘This is ridiculous’ is the highest form of praise.”

(15) TODAY’S TIME TRAVEL FAQ. Courtesy of Keaton Patti.

I was going to have to revoke the previous joke til I confirmed he wasn’t talking about Gene Wolfe in this tweet —

(16) ZERO SUM GAME. Eater reports on how a “Robot Cafe Considers Itself Pro-Worker by Not Hiring Any Workers”.

Despite fully automated luxury communism sounding pretty sweet, Western workers have mostly felt haunted the specter of our jobs being taken by robots. Take RC Coffee, Canada’s first “robotic cafe,” aka an “unattended espresso machine,” which is basically a glorified version of whatever spat sludge and foam into a cup for five quarters in your college dorm’s lounge. But it is probably aware of that association, and the fear that kiosks like it could actually replace a barista, so it’s trying a new tactic; robots as pro-worker….

(17) FESS UP. They’d still like to get it back. “Rock. Paper. Pranksters.” At University of Oregon’s “Around the O.”

OK, mystery pranksters. It’s been 43 years since the Great Halloween Meteorite Caper of ’78. Your identities have never become widely known. Time to come forward.

Halloween night that year, a group calling itself the Meteorite Cleaning Service staged a distraction at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall. “A strangling man appeared to be hanging from a window of PLC. Campus security went to investigate only to discover the man was in fact a balloon, a shirt, and some pants,” student reporter Jock Hatfield wrote in the Oregon Daily Emerald.

While campus security responded to PLC, the pranksters headed to the Museum of Natural History, then located in what is now Pacific Hall. Their target was on display out front: a life-size, plaster-and-chicken-wire replica of the sixth-largest meteorite found on Earth, the Willamette Meteorite or “Tomanowos,” as named by the Clackamas people.

The next day, “it was immediately evident the meteorite replica was gone,” remembers Alice Parman, then the museum director. Eight hundred pounds of mock rock, 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall, gone, leaving nothing but questions: Why? How? And who?…

(18) CHINA SENDS CREW TO THEIR SPACE STATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “China launches 6-month crewed mission as it cements position as global space power” reports CNN. Crew includes Wang Yaping, first female taikonaut on the station and first scheduled to do a spacewalk.

China launched a three-person crew into space in the early hours of Saturday — a major step for the country’s young space program, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most advanced.

The three astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft just past midnight local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, located in Inner Mongolia.

They will dock at China’s new space station, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace), six and a half hours after launch. They will live and work at the station for 183 days, or just about six months — the country’s longest mission yet….

(19) WOOF, WOOF, BANG, BANG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While they look like cousins, don’t confuse this robodog with Boston Dynamics’ Spot. The much-less-aptly-named canid-like bot Vision 60 is made by Ghost Robotics out of Philly. A version of Vision has been demonstrated carrying a sniper rifle, albeit one that is aimed and fired by a remote operator. Unarmed versions of Vision 60 have been used in military exercises. The article doesn’t address whether Ghost Robotics has any customers for the armed version. “Welp, Now We Have Robo-Dogs With Sniper Rifles” at Popular Mechanics.

Science fiction has seeped into science reality this week, as a robotics company showed off its sniper rifle-equipped robo-dog at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Sure, the quadruped robot might resemble a good boy, but it’s packing a built-in sniper rifle capable of engaging targets from three-quarters of a mile away. The service could operate this robotic weapon system remotely. Importantly, it would only engage targets with permission from a human being….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Extent” is an sff short film distributed by DUST.

Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]